By Tom White
The Morgan County High School Bulldogs basketball team opened region play on Friday night at home against the visiting Hephzibah Rebels from Richmond County. The Dogs brought their 5 and 4 record to the table against the 2 and 2 record of the Rebels. The Morgan County season has been plagued with postponements and cancellations including the game on Tuesday, January 5th at Thomson that was supposed to be the region opener. This game would not go the way of the Dogs either losing 66-61 to open region play.
A look at the height chart shows a perfect match up for the starters between the two teams. Both teams brought out their best zone press but the Bulldog’s press seemed the most effective in the first two minutes of the game. The press led to turnovers and three layups for the Dogs and a 6-2 lead. A couple of turnovers and a three by Hephzibah got the Rebels a 9-8 lead with four minutes left in the first quarter. The press of the Rebels led to several MCHS miscues and an 8 point lead, 16-8, for Hephzibah. The quarter ended with Hephzibah holding on to a five point lead, 21-16.
The second quarter saw MCHS Head Coach Jamond Sims dig deep into the bench with only two starters, Desmond White and Marquavious Wright, on the court. The Rebels stayed in their zone defense opening the quarter. This time a box and one was the choice for Hepzibah Head Coach Richard Jones. Marquavious Wright had a baseline drive that cut the Rebel lead to three with six minutes to go in the half. Ashton Cooper made his presence known in the first 2:30 minutes of the second quarter snatching rebounds on both ends of the court. Cooper finished the night with six boards. The Dogs pushed the action and capitalized on several Rebel turnovers to tie the game with 4:20 left in the half. MCHS began to run the floor with finesse and show teamwork with selfless passing as they took the lead for the 1st time with two minutes to go in the 2nd. Hephzibah continued to fight and the half ended with Hephzibah holding a 33-31 lead.
A quick 3 by Jayden Pack from Hephzibah got the 3rd quarter started. TJ Thompson got the Dogs started in the 3rd with a three from the wing to stop a 5 – 0 Hephzibah run. A Marquavious Wright bounce pass to Thompson got the Dogs to a 2 point deficit then a turnover by the Rebels and an offensive rebound by Malachi Hardy tied the game at 38 with 4 minutes to go in the Third. Morgan County brought a full court man defense and saw some positive results limiting the fire power of the Rebels as well as creating some fast break opportunities for themselves. Pack continued to have the hot hand well into the quarter. With just over a minute to go in the quarter, Sims used a full time out to stop a Hephzibah run and recompose his troops. Hephzibah used that run to get up by seven points, 48-41. After a physical last 60 seconds of the 3rd, Hephzibah held on to a 48 – 42 lead.
As the fourth period started, foul trouble plagued the both teams. Hephzibah forward Jacobe Cummings fouled out late in the 3rd and Malachi Hardy picked up his 4th foul 30 seconds into the quarter and his fifth with six minutes to go in the game. Pack continued to lead from beyond the three point line. The Rebels spread their lead to nine until Wright drove the lane and was fouled as he made a layup to cut the lead to 57-51. The physicality of the game continued to drive the action and the narrative between the coaches and the officials. Hephzibah spread the lead to 11 and Sims had seen enough to call a timeout to stop the bleeding. The Dogs fail to capitalize on the Rebel miscues and their strong defensive board play late in the game falling to Hephzibah 66-61. The Dogs move to .500 on the season and 0 and 1 in region play.
The night’s scoring leaders for the Dogs were Marquavious Wright with 21, TJ Thompson with 11, and Desmond White with 10.
The boys’ game at Academy of Richmond County was postponed due to Covid exposures at ARC. The new date will be announced soon. The Dogs are back home Friday night against Cross Creek. The girls begin at 6pm and the boys at 7:30pm.