The Morgan County Bulldogs erected a nearly impenetrable defense around the basket last Saturday night at home and defeated Greene County 69-44 in the longawaited renewal of the traditional basketball rivalry.
The win was the first for Morgan County since December of 2019, and the Bulldogs are hoping it signals a turning point in what has been a long and difficult period for the team.
The Bulldogs won three state championships this past decade (2014, 2016, 2019), but the mass exodus of players after the 2018-19 season left a group with plenty of potential but very little experience.
"After we graduated those eight seniors from the state championship team, we came back with seven players who were really babies without a lot of game experience," Morgan Coach Jamond Sims said. "We expected some growing pains, but they gave us a lot of bright spots last year. But this year we're expecting that full year of experience to show."
But if you were in the gym on the night of Dec. 5, you saw a team with some size, athleticism and promise.
Greene County had gotten the season off to a good start with a 68-57 win over Oglethorpe but struggled a bit with the jump shot against Morgan.
The Tigers are also trying to improve after a below average season last year that had been preceded by several quality campaigns.
The Bulldogs jumped out to an early 12-6 lead in the first half which concluded with a baseline jumper by junior guard Desmond White. They kept up the defensive pressure and went to locker leading 33-19 at the half after a late 3-pointer by sophomore Anaury Warren who scored 7 points in the game.
"We challenged them all week to focus on defense," Sims said. "We're hoping to hang out hats on defense and get ourselves more easy baskets and keep up our energy level.
The Bulldogs continued to build their lead and headed into the fourth quarter with a 54-29 advantage.
With a couple of minutes to play and holding a substantial lead, Morgan County Coach Jamond Sims was able to let his bench players get into the game for some experience that might come in handy down the road.
Senior guard Ja Peck scored 14 points for the Tigers to lead the team. Evan Andrews was also in double figures with 12 points. Senior forward Kemonta Kenneybrew had nine points and hit a 3-pointer of his own near the end of the first half.
Trey Gresham, Jaquavious Burdette, D. J. Walker, Radarius Miller and Ja'Like
Armstrong also contributed points for Greene County.
Morgan County spread out the scoring among several players, including White who led the team with 11 points and sophomore wing Marquavious Wright who had 10 points. Malachi Hardy had 9 points and T.J. Thompson had 8. Tyreese Nelson, Ashton Cooper and Cooper Easternday also scored for Morgan.