LON sports editor Justin Hubbard wants Greene and Morgan
Rivalries are my favorite part about sports.
They have a way of bringing out the best in each team involved.
Even if one team is presumably outmatched, there will still be a buzz about rivalry games. We saw that on full display Friday, Dec. 28, when the Morgan County boys basketball team hosted Greene County as part of the annual Sweet South Classic tournament.
If you’ve followed these teams the past several years, you know they’ve had very different paths. The Bulldogs (along with their female counterparts) turned into perennial Region 8-AAA champs and playoff contenders. The Tigers, meanwhile, enjoyed a few fleeting moments of success but, mostly, they’re still trying to find their footing as a program.
I’ll admit I expected this year’s Greene-Morgan matchup, the teams’ first basketball meeting since 2012, to be close. The Tigers, under first-year head coach Gregory Freeman, look good this season and the Bulldogs, as they search for consistent success outside their big three of Tyrin Lawrence, Stevin Greene and Alec Woodard, looked relatively shaky, at least compared to the past two seasons.
Morgan wound up manhandling Greene, winning 91-56. The game was close after the first quarter but it was practically over by halftime. Lawrence and Greene had a field day and Morgan’s defense stymied Greene.
It did not matter, though, to the dozens of fans in attendance. There was a huge crowd in the gym before the game started but, shortly after tipoff, there were barely any seats available.
It was the second-biggest crowd I’ve ever seen at MOCO, topped only by last year’s capacity crowd at the MOCO-Newton games.
Greene vs Morgan in basketball needs to happen more often. It’s ridiculous it took these programs six years to finally play each other again. I was a senior at GCHS when their most recent games were played. None of the players who participated in this year’s contest had ever played each other in an official capacity.
They warred early when the game was close. Lawrence was stopped from dunking by Greene’s Anton Kilpatrick and they had a brief dust-up that drew warnings from an official. Afterward, they shook each other’s hand and gave each other brief pats on the back. In fact, most players did that after the game ended.
After that night, I spent time talking with the teams’ coaches, Jamond Sims (MCHS) and Freeman (GCHS), and a handful of their players.
I asked them if the two schools should play each other on a regular basis. Here’s what they had to say:
Stevin Greene: “That was all fun and games when it comes to playing them.”
Tyrin Lawrence: “I think, with those two teams playing, it'll bring a lot of people out. It's just what everyone wants to see, just two next door neighbors playing against each other. It's good for the fans.”
C’Darius Kelley: “Of course. It draws a good crowd, money. … I think we should do it more.”
Anton Kilpatrick: “If you came to the Greene County-Morgan game, you would see that there were no (empty) seats. That's what you want. You want a show.”
D.J. Wright: “That's an old-school rivalry, probably one of the best rivalries in the state of Georgia, I think. It’s city versus city. We're right beside each other. … The fans want to see it. Let's give the fans what they want to see.”
Jamond Sims: “I think the biggest thing is, logistics-wise, making sure it'll be able to fit in everybody's schedule. Also, with [GCHS] being single-A, they have to keep in context of their power rankings, especially with that single-A playoffs. There's a lot of different factors that go into play when we talk about keeping that rivalry going. It's something that we can definitely talk about and discuss.”
Gregory Freeman: “Personally, I'm a rivalry killer. I like to play rivalry games. It creates the type of atmosphere that you want your kids to play in so, down the road, they'll be ready to play on bigger stages. It was a good experience for us (this year). It didn't go the way I wanted it to go but, yeah, I want to go after the bigger and better team in the area.”
All of those people made different points but the consensus reads yes, Greene and Morgan need to consistently play each other on the hardwood.
As Sims mentioned, there’s more at stake for Greene because it has to deal with a power rating system as part of the GHSA’s Class A. That system ranks the top teams in that classification based upon record and strength of schedule and only the power rating’s top 24 teams earn a spot in the playoffs.
It’s a convoluted system that needs a major shakeup, but that’s the reality facing the Tigers. Morgan, as part of Class AAA, plays a straight-up region schedule and region tournament without any power rankings.
Greene must decide whether it wants to play an established powerhouse in Morgan and potentially take a loss against the Bulldogs. It could easily leave off that game and add another, more beatable team to the schedule. Wins are precious for Class A teams, so that’s certainly a tough decision.
And Morgan, of course, plays a big share of giants early every season. The Bulldogs regularly travel abroad – oftentimes out of state – to get warmed up for the season and put their players in tense situations ahead of the playoffs at the end of the year.
But what Kelley and Kilpatrick said should trump any negative reason for not scheduling these games: Greene vs Morgan draws a big crowd and a lot of money. Each school stands to earn a big pay day with this matchup, provided they agree on a home-and-home series each year or one annual meeting with the host site swapping each time.
One loss – to a team two classes bigger – would not kill Greene in the power rating. Skipping a game against another powerhouse wouldn’t take away any competitive gains from the Bulldogs. Besides, this rivalry will bring a comparable atmosphere to Morgan’s early-season contests anyway.
This is something that would excite Lake Country, especially if it involved both schools’ boys and girls teams.
It can happen. The players and coaches want it to happen. The community wants it to happen.
GCHS and MCHS, please make it happen.