By R. Alan Richardson
After disposing of Calhoun in the first round of the Girls’ State AAA Basketball Tournament 43-40, the Lady Bulldogs went south for a matchup with Tattnall County in the Sweet Sixteen. It wasn’t easy in this one either, according to Coach Timothy Roop. “We got in foul trouble in the second half and had to play without one of our big three when Taylor Wilson went down with an ankle injury with three minutes left in the first half. But, we weathered the storm. We got some huge plays and important minutes from players deep on our bench. Despite missing nine free throws down the stretch, they found a way to get the win. We should be back to full strength on Tuesday when we head to North Hall. We will be prepared and have a plan. If we execute that plan for four quarters we definitely have a shot. I would love to take this group of girls down to Valdosta next weekend!”
Morgan came out of the locker room on fire in the first quarter running out to a 15-0 lead before Tattnall got on the board with a free throw at the 2:00 mark with the quarter ending at 19-5. It looked like MOCO would put this one in the books early, but that wasn’t what the Lady Warriors were going to settle for playing at home. Morgan forced eight turnovers during the first period and extended the lead to as many as 18 at 25-7 early in the second.
With three minutes remaining in the half, Wilson went out with an ankle sprain. The floor leader has been a vital cog in the Lady Dogs’ plans, and it was a different game without her leadership after that. “We pressed on missed and made baskets. That strategy and defensive intensity was smothering and we had them frustrated. After Taylor went down, we limped into the half with a 14 point advantage (35-21),” said Roop.
Tattnall came out of break with a quick basket to cut the Bulldog lead to 12, but Shay Brown responded with a three and Neshay Cobb got an offensive rebound and putback on the next possession to put Morgan back on top by 17. At that point was when the Lady Warriors went on a run of their own. Over the final 5:30 of the third period Tattnall outscored the Dogs 14-4 to close out the period. At the end of three quarters of play it was a slim 44-38 lead for MOCO. Roop commented, “The third quarter was a tough stretch for us. We got in foul trouble and were forced to play without our point guard due to injury. They hit a few three point shots and they won the third quarter 17-9, which cut our lead to six.”
With Tattnall playing before a home crowd and with all the momentum in their favor, they quickly tied the score at 44-44 early in the final period. The Lady Dogs backs were against the wall. To add insult to injury, Cobb and Kourtney Elder had been sidelined for big minutes with four fouls apiece. Freshman Peyton Spain banked in a three-pointer from the top of the key to put Morgan back on top 47-44. Those three points were her only points of the evening, but they were huge. Junior Taylor Frederick also stepped up big down the stretch on both ends of the floor when she hit a short runner to put Morgan up 49-44 with 4:21 to play.
After a Warrior basket cut the lead back to three, Brown and Cobb scored back-to-back buckets to give the girls some breathing room at 53-46, but Tattnall refused to throw in the towel. A three-pointer with 1:03 left in the contest kept the Warriors within striking distance at 53-49, but Morgan made just enough free throws to get out of Reidsville with the “W” in a hotly contested matchup 57-51.
Roop gave us his rundown of the final period saying, “The fourth quarter I had to go deep in our bench and many girls stepped up and played some big minutes for us. They eventually tied the game up with about three minutes to play. Peyten Spain, a freshman forward, hit a huge three pointer to give us the lead back (her only points of the game). We were able to get a defensive stop on their possession. We came down and got a big bucket from junior guard Taylor Frederick. She, Frederick, also had multiple defensive stands including blocking a three-point attempt by Tattnall’s best player. From that point we never looked back. We missed nine free throws down the stretch and could have made the end a little more comfortable but our girls battled and played their hearts out with one of our leaders on the bench. I could not be more proud of this group of young ladies. Nikki Jones stepped up and played amazing defense for us when we got into foul trouble. NeShay Cobb and Tamia Benford were able to knock down some big free throws in the fourth. I could say something about each girl that made the trip! Taylor will get a few days to get treatment and recover.”
Peyten Spain 3 pts
Shay Brown 12 pts
Tamia Benford 12 pts
Taylor Wilson 6 pts
NeShay Cobb 7 pts
Kourtney Elder 9 pts
Taylor Frederick 4 pts
Miracle Hunter 4 pts