By R. Alan Richardson
The home opener and prior pre-season scrimmage for the Morgan County Lady Dogs’ basketball team have not gone as planned. Or have they? Over the past several season, the program has taken to scheduling stronger opponents early outside the region in an attempt to “toughen up” the team for those games that really do count. Just ask first-year head coach Timothy Roop. As the lead assistant for Josh Reeves over the past few seasons, he has seen first-hand how these early games may not be an indicator of how the team will fare in AAA play. He said, “Every year I have been here, and I believe the championship year as well, we have had a losing record early playing a tough schedule.”
The schedule doesn’t get any easier after this past week’s scrimmage loss to Madison County and a 65-45 loss to AAAAAAA powerhouse Newton in Saturday’s season home opener. Next up will be another 7A opponent in North Gwinnett in the Tabo’s Tipoff Classic at Jefferson. Going in with that mentality will certainly help the Lady Dogs when they face off with Franklin County Dec. 3 in their first region contest in Madison.
Much like the boys’, the girls lost some vital cogs from an at-large bid team this past season. Gone are their two leading scorers, Lou Reid and Miranda Powell. The inability to score against some solid defense and talented athletes and turnovers will be areas that the coaching staff plans to address this week. Roop commented, “Our seniors know the type of work we have to put in and it’s very early. We have time before our next opponent so we will focus on taking care of the basketball and continue to come together as a team.”
In the first quarter, Morgan did not get a basket from the field until the waning seconds of the period. They were able to drive the ball and get numerous attempts at the free throw line, but were unable to convert on the majority of those going only 4-10 from the charity stripe. Newcomer freshman Peyten Spain got a short jumper in the lane for the only score from the field. Newton led 20-6 at the end of the first quarter.
The girls settled down some in the second period on the play of senior point guard Taylor Wilson and senior Tamia Benford on offense. Wilson was a perfect 4-for-4 from the line and Benford chipped in with five more points. However, it was the coming out party for sophomore shooting guard Shay Brown that got most of the attention. She hit two deep three’s in the period on her way to a team-high 24 points to keep Morgan in the game. They trailed by 13 at 34-21 when the horn sounded for the break.
Newton put the game away early in the third quarter on a 9-0 run and never looked back. The Lady Dogs were outscored 19-11 and trailed 53-32 before eventually losing by the 20-point margin. MOCO got good offensive production out of Benford with 16 points. She and Brown accounted for every Morgan point in the second half.
The girls will play three games in the Tabo’s Tipoff Classic scheduled for Nov. 23, 25, and 26. The Franklin home region opener action kicks off with JV girls at 4:30 followed by girls’ varsity at 6:00 and boys at 7:30 p.m.