Morgan basketball honors seniors

Latrabius Stokes drives into the paint and lays up an easy basket against Jackson. Stokes shined during last Tuesday’s win, leading the Bulldogs with 23 points.

PHOTO: Justin Hubbard

By Justin Hubbard

justin@lakeoconeenews.us

 

The Morgan County basketball teams celebrated their seniors in style last week with easy victories over Jackson County.

The Lady Dogs beat the Lady Panthers, 51-31, before the Bulldogs rolled past Jackson’s boys team, 71-41.

For the Morgan girls, seniors Morgan Walker and Aris Hubbard combined for 10 points. The team’s third senior, Jamie Puckett, didn’t register any points but she recorded a start and contributed on defense and on the boards.

“I just think it was a fun game,” Walker said. “It was fun to get out there one last home game.”

Hubbard called the game “bittersweet.” Lady Dogs head coach Joshua Reeves agreed, saying the three veterans mean a lot to the program.

“Those girls are very special to me,” Reeves said. “They're one of the last groups that was on the state championship team. They've really come a long way.”

Reeves pointed out Puckett missed considerable time during her career due to injuries. Reeves said the fact she developed into a starter this season impressed him.

“To see how far she's come along and work herself into a starter role has made us very happy,” Reeves said.

Walker was mostly a role player before the past couple of years when she saw her minutes increase. She’s become one of the Lady Dogs’ most important pieces on offense.

“I think this year, [Walker has] worked hard to get herself to be a big-minutes player,” Reeves said. “She's made some big shots for us. She's really stepped into that starter's role.”

Reeves said it’s pleased him seeing Hubbard’s development over the years.

“When Aris came to us in ninth grade, she had so much potential and I'm really proud of her for reaching her potential,” he said. “When you look at what we thought she had, she's reached that. I've told her a lot of times if basketball was her No. 1 love, then she'd be a college basketball player but track is her love, so she's going to be a college track athlete. She's just a hard worker and she's meant a lot to the team.”

Puckett, Hubbard and Walker each recalled their favorite memories from their careers with the Lady Dogs. The team’s multiple region championships and the state title a few years ago were at the top of the list.

When asked about the program’s future potential, Hubbard said she sees the Lady Dogs going “nowhere but up.”

Ironically, it was the Lady Dogs’ future that was showcased the most during the game versus Jackson.

Arkesia Williams and Kourtney Elder filled in nicely for the suspended Santaji “Lou” Reid (Reid was ejected from an earlier game) and Taylor Wilson, who played limited minutes after battling the flu. Williams and Elder combined for 10 points.

It was junior Miranda Powell, though, who stole the show. Powell was on fire from the start and dropped 26 points, a season high for her. Reeves said the absence of Reid allowed Powell more opportunities. Moving forward, he’d like to see both of them score several points.

“Miranda was as smooth as she always is,” Reeves said. “When Lou's on the court, with Lou being the dominant scorer like she is, every once in a while Miranda will kind of let Lou do her thing. If you could put Lou on one side doing her thing and Miranda doing what she did [Tuesday], that makes us a very dangerous lineup and that's really what we want. I want Miranda to be as aggressive as she was [Tuesday] even when we have our full stack of players in there. ... When she's confident, she shoots the ball as well as anybody.”

The Lady Dogs’ postseason action started this week in the Region 8-AAA tournament. The Lady Dogs are expected to have a spot in the state playoffs, too, which start up next week.

Reeves said the goal entering this week was sending off his three seniors with one more region title to set up another deep run in the state tournament.

“It'd be nice to close it out with a bunch of region championships to your credit,” Reeves said. “That's always the goal so, hopefully, we can end it on a high note and play well against some of these good teams going forward.”

As for the Morgan boys, each senior contributed to the Bulldogs’ victory but there was one who stood out.

Latrabius Stokes dropped 23 points, a game-high for the Bulldogs. Stokes played regular minutes during the season but never broke out the way he did last Tuesday.

“I guess I was feeling it today,” Stokes said in the minutes after the game. “The majority of the time, I get in and try to help out my teammates the best I can and this time I came in, shot well and did what I had to do.”

Bulldogs head coach Jamond Sims said he and the other coaches and players knew Stokes was always capable of the type of performance he showed last week. They all kept waiting for him to finally turn it on during a game.

“Every year, you try to figure out which senior is gonna be the one to live in the moment and showcase their skills and their talents,” Sims said. “[Tuesday], Latrabius was one of those that kind of stepped up to the stage and took it and ran with it. We kind of joke with him, like, 'Man, Tray Tray, you come out and you make them all in practice but you just get a little tight or tense in the game,' and he's like, 'I know, I know.' [Tuesday], guys just kept finding him and, sometimes, they would make an extra pass just to make sure that he got a chance to get that shot.”

Anthony Cooper was the second-leading scorer among Morgan’s seniors with 8 points. Yusuf Baig knocked down two threes and Austin Hoopengardner drained a 3-pointer early on. Quin Williams scored an easy bucket during the third quarter.

The team’s other seniors, Tre’Mon Moore and Anthony Thomas, did not score but they, along with the other seniors, played the entire first quarter to great success. The seniors opened the game by clamping down on defense and leading 14-9 after the first quarter.

Most of those 9 points for Jackson came on easy shots allowed late in the period. Morgan gave up a few more of those shots late in the second half, too.

Sims said the easy buckets let Jackson surpass 40 points. The Bulldogs go into every game hoping to hold their opponents to 40 or fewer points. Sims said the fact the Panthers got past the threshold – even though it was only by 1 point – bothered his players.

“They still missed their 40-point goal by 1 point,” Sims said. “That's why nobody was happy at the end of the game. They were like, 'Coach, we were so close.' That's why you've got to pay attention to detail for 32 minutes, no matter who's on the floor.”

Although the Bulldogs didn’t play a perfect game, Sims said the night was still special because of what the team’s seven seniors mean to him.

“We walked in the doors here at the high school together,” he said. “My very first year, they were coming over from the middle school so we both started at the same time. Just watching them grow up and watching them develop over the years, it's been kind of bittersweet. At the end of the day, you've got to let them go at some point and time. It's been a pleasure just being around them and getting the chance to coach them up.”

The seniors knew last week their season was far from over, though.

The Bulldogs competed this week in the Region 8-AAA tournament and will play in the Class AAA state tournament beginning next week. When asked what the Bulldogs must do to continue their winning ways, Cooper said there needs to be a continued focus on defense.

Williams said the Bulldogs can’t become complacent, either.

“Just continue to grow and get better every game,” he said. “Don't have any letdowns. We can't take a step back.”

Rate this article: 
Average: 3.7 (3 votes)
Breaking News: 
No