The top-ranked Morgan County Bulldogs have been a model of consistency in Class AA and AAA for the past four seasons. We soon might be saying five.
In 2011-12, the Bulldogs fell to eventual-champion Laney in the Class AA quarterfinals and the next season, Morgan fell to North Hall 50-46 in the second round. But the proverbial ball was rolling and starting in 2013-14, Morgan beat Buford 69-45 at the Macon Centerplex to win the Class AAA championship. In 2014-15, the Bulldogs lost 62-60 to Savannah’s Jenkins in the championship game. The next season, Morgan again faced Jenkins for the state championship and won 66-56. Last year, Morgan lost in the finals to Pace Academy.
“It’s just one of those things where (the players) are just used to playing high-level basketball,” said Morgan County head coach Jamond Sims. “They have been fortunate enough to play in the state championship game the past four years now. It’s kind of like an expectation now, and sure, at times, it is unrealistic to think that you can get back every year. But that’s what they expect from themselves.”
Last season, Wendell Carter Jr. and Pace defeated Morgan County 54-46 at UGA’s Stegeman Coliseum in the Class AAA title game. Carter is now debuting for Mike Zrzyzewski’s Duke Blue Devils.
“There’s a little bit of ‘unfinished business’ mentality from last year, after coming up short to Pace Academy," Sims said. "So the objective is to take it one game at a time and try to get back to that last game.”
The key to consistency for Morgan County is making the extra pass and playing as a team that is simply trying to get a ball through a metal rim. Sims said his team is not concerned about individual stats.
“We have a bunch of guys that are really unselfish, really humble and they’re just more concerned with the overall finished product of winning and representing their school," he said.
But the program, located 59 miles east of downtown Atlanta, sometimes feels overlooked. The No. 1 ranking helps, but Sims said he is OK that increased recognition seems to come at crunch time.
“We laugh and joke all the time that it’s rough, as far as life, outside of I-285 because (the kids) often go unnoticed,” he said, laughing. “But at the end of the day, I’d rather them be talked about at the end of the year and be remembered, than to be talked about at the beginning of the year and be forgotten.”
The Bulldogs will travel to Franklin County on Friday hoping to keep their unblemished season (19-0, 5-0) intact. Game time is 8:30 p.m.
Here are other top boys games this weekend:
-- No. 2 Jenkins (14-3, 7-1) will host Islands at 8 p.m. Friday. The Warriors have won six consecutive games, but are one game behind Johnson in the region race. Regardless, expect for Jenkins to advance deep into the playoffs.
-- No. 3 Johnson-Savannah (15-2, 8-0) is hosting Southeast Bulloch at 8 p.m. Friday. A seven-game winning streak, fueled by solid play from junior Shamar Jones and seniors Amanze Ngumezi and Eleik Bowles, has given Johnson a lead over Jenkins in the Region 3 standings.
– No. 1 Greater Atlanta Christian (13-3, 6-0) was scheduled to travel to Dawson County, but the game was postponed due to snow.
-- No. 2 Beach (16-1, 7-0) will make a road trip to Groves at 6 p.m. Friday with hopes of keeping its region lead intact. Beach is holding a one-game lead over Jenkins (7-1) in Region 3.
-- No. 3 Franklin County (20-0, 5-0) has gone unbeaten through 20 games and has a one-game lead over Hart County (4-1) in the Region 8 standings. Franklin will host Morgan County (7-11, 3-2) at 7 p.m. on Friday.