Lady Dogs drop three straight

Morgan County junior Santaji “Lou” Reid dribbles toward the goal, steps back and drains a shot during the first quarter of last Friday’s game.

PHOTO: Justin Hubbard

By Justin Hubbard

justin@lakeoconeenews.us

 

The Morgan County girls basketball team hit a three-game skid last week, dropping the Lady Dogs’ record to 2-5 as of Tuesday.

The Lady Dogs beat LaGrange on Nov. 25, 51-43, then fell to Buford (70-23), Cedar Shoals (57-56 OT) and Putnam County (46-39).

Morgan head coach Joshua Reeves said there’s reason to be optimistic despite the rough start.

“I think we're doing a lot of things that a young team does badly at times but I think we're progressing, I think we're coming along like we want to,” Reeves said. “Our record is not where we want it to be. However, we're in games. Except for the Buford game, it's not we're getting smashed or anything. I think we're getting a lot of good experience under our belt sending us toward region time.”

Reeves said the team’s underwhelming record is not a result of a lack of effort from his players. They just haven’t put together many wins despite their hard work.

“The girls are doing a good job,” Reeves said. “I don't want them to start feeling pressure or anything like that – I just want them to continue to play hard. The best compliment we could get is when everybody watches us and they say, 'Man, y'all played hard tonight. Y'all didn't give up. Y'all pushed them.'”

That was certainly the case last Friday against Cedar Shoals.

The Lady Dogs led most of the way but, thanks to some missed shots in the fourth quarter, the Lady Jaguars fought their way back in and took a late lead.

Thanks to steals by junior Miranda Powell and sophomore Taylor Wilson, Morgan tied things up at 51 and forced overtime.

Neither team gained much separation in the extra period, but fouls against the Lady Dogs sent Cedar Shoals to the line too many times. The Lady Jags capitalized and took a 1-poitn lead with mere seconds on the clock.

Junior Santaji “Lou” Reid fired a 3-pointer that looked good but kicked off the front of the rim. Senior Morgan Walker grabbed the rebound but missed a shot right under the goal as time expired; Reeves said afterward he knows Walker would’ve made the shot any other time – it just wasn’t meant to be.

Morgan battled a tough Cedar Shoals team along with injuries and illness. Senior center Aris Hubbard injured her ankle last Thursday in the final 10 minutes of practice. Reeves said Hubbard awkwardly landed while rebounding a ball but, fortunately for the Lady Dogs, she was not expected to miss much time as of last Friday.

Reid “tweaked” her shoulder versus Buford last Tuesday, Reeves said, and it visibly bothered her during Friday’s contest. It didn’t help matters that Reid crashed hard to the floor during the fourth quarter, further aggravating her shoulder.

But, Reid stood up and knocked down two foul shots immediately after falling. It was a symbolic moment for the Lady Dogs, who contended despite those key injuries and despite having a few players who were not feeling well.

“We weren't ready to make excuses and we weren't ready to change anything,” Reeves said. “We could've closed it out and we didn't. But, hopefully, we'll see that in the future and we'll figure out those few mistakes we made and make sure and take advantage of it next time.”

Reid’s toughness was on full display, particularly because of her nagging shoulder injury, which Reeves said should be fine once she can rest. There were a few runs where Reid was Morgan’s primary scorer, which added up to 25 total points.

Reeves said he wasn’t surprised Reid was often able to take over the game.

“She played with grit, she played with heart,” Reeves said. “If you know Lou, she's kind of an emotionless robot at times – in a very positive way; she's very calm under pressure – and sometimes you can't tell if she's angry or happy. But she came out and did what she needed to do. She wants the ball in her hands at that time.”

Powell came through a bunch of times, too, knocking down key shots and forcing turnovers late in the contest. She finished with 10 points and flashed her offensive prowess, surely a good sign for the Lady Dogs.

“She finally kind of stepped up to that level of what I think she feels like her role on the team should be,” Reeves said. “She was aggressive, she was on the dribble pull-ups, she was on the attack mode [Friday]. She was not just a shooter. The first couple games she's been shooting a lot and trying to get some shots to fall to get her momentum going. [Friday], it was get to the free throw line, get to the bucket.”

Although there were certainly solid performances across the board, the work of those two juniors – along with clutch free throws and steals in the second half by Wilson – often carried the Lady Dogs.

Reeves said the work of Reid, Powell and Wilson signaled his team is headed in the right direction regardless of disappointing results.

“You're happy to see them play like that,” he said. “Once we get everybody healthy and everybody contributing, we'll be all good.”

Still, wins and losses are ultimately what matters in sports. Reeves said he’s “ready for a real victory, not a moral victory."

This year’s first stretch of games mirrors the first half of the Lady Dogs’ 2016-17 season. They struggled until region play started and even then had their ups and downs.

Morgan turned things on near the conclusion of its schedule, though, and made a run to the Final Four. Reeves said he’s confident this year’s squad can turn things around, too.

“We're gonna put it together,” he said. “It just depends on which game it is. Last season, it didn't happen until toward the end. This year, let's hope it happens a little sooner, just for my blood pressure's sake.”

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