By R. Alan Richardson
The 2019-20 Bulldog basketball season kicked off Saturday night at home against an always-talented Newton team. Starting three sophomores, junior Desmond White, and senior AJ Brown, the Dogs came away empty-handed in the 74-47 loss. The inexperience showed in the second half.
Trailing by only seven at intermission 29-22, and both teams playing like it was the first game of the season, Morgan’s youthful lineup had problems handling the Rams’ pressure. Turnovers that were converted into easy buckets proved too much for MOCO to overcome.
Coach Jamond Sims weighed in on his team’s play, “Inexperience and turnovers definitely played a big part in the game. I felt like we pressed the issue a bit looking to make big plays in the home opener. They have such high expectations of themselves… The second half of frustration after turnovers led to layups. The fight they showed in the first half was a definite bright spot. Having to face a good team in your first live competition would be discouraging for most, but I think they’ll bounce back just fine.”
Morgan lost five outstanding seniors to graduation who are now playing at the next level. That kind of talent is difficult, if not impossible, to replace. As the reigning Region and State Champs from 2019, Morgan’s youngsters will need to grow up in a hurry if they expect to repeat that feat.
Starters Brown, White, Malachi Hardy, Marquavious Wright, and Ty Butler put up a good fight in the opening minutes trailing 5-4. The Rams went on a 7-0 run to end the period and take a 12-4 lead after eight minutes. Newton was 6-8 from the free throw stripe while the Dogs failed to get to the line.
Newton started the second quarter with an old-fashioned three-point play before Butler made good on two free throws to bring the score to 15-6. A deep three and another layup by the Rams forced Sims into a timeout situation trailing 20-6. His troops came together for the remainder of the quarter and played their best basketball of the night. Wright scored an inside bucket and White followed that up with a three-pointer before Wright got two free throws in the one-and-one bonus to draw within nine at 22-13. A deep three by Newton squelched the momentum before Hardy hit a layup and Newton called a timeout. Morgan finished out the half with a seven point run to pull within five, but the Rams hit a shot at the buzzer for the 29-22 halftime advantage.
The second half was not so kind to the home team. Wright got another easy lay-in, but the turnover bug hit the Dogs as they gave up four consecutive baskets on turnovers. At that point, Newton led 37-24 and MOCO never recovered. AJ Brown had a solid performance in the second half with seven of his nine points. Unofficially, Wright ended the night with eight points, Butler had seven (all from the FT line 7-8), but it was White who led the scoring with 10 in a balanced attack.
Morgan will now play in the Houston County Pre-Thanksgiving Classic against Douglas County on Nov. 22 at 5:30 before returning home on Dec. 3 for their first 8-AAA contest with Franklin County. JV girls start the action at 4:30 with varsity girls at 6:00 and varsity boys at 7:30 p.m.