Miranda H. Lewis
Carter County Times
The Morgan County Cougars (18-6) are closing out their regular season slate against familiar rivals, starting with their 82-60 win over the West Carter Comets (5-19).
Prior to tipoff, the Comets recognized seniors Kaleb Rayburn and Matthew Carpenter.
West Carter coach Jeremy Webb has essentially been rebuilding his young Comet squad this season and has done so in the starting combination of one freshman, one sophomore, two juniors and one senior.
This rebuilding year for the Comets will be imperative in seasons to come, as the experience the players are receiving now will be indispensable.
With plenty of talent this season – and in the years to come –West Carter has an exciting core to build around.
The Cougars’ offense was led by Preston Hoskins with 29 points, followed by Cameron Adams with 15, and Gatlin Griffiths adding 14 points to the win.
Hoskins made four 3-pointers in the first half en route to swishing seven of 11 attempts (64%) for the contest.
Morgan County scored 36 points from the arc to West Carters 18 for the affair.
Filling up the Comets’ stat sheet was Brent Dailey with 14 points while Nathan Webb and Jacob Waddell each collected 11 points.
Like all great rivalries, it was back and forth at the top of the first, with West Carter having a five point lead at the 4:30 mark.
The start was favorable to the Comets as they did a good job slowing down the run and gun Cougars right out of the gate.
“We talked about that in pre-game. At the start of the game, Gatlin and Eli both said guys we gotta come out strong because we know they’ll come out on their senior night, home floor and make big shots. It’s all about how we respond to it and defend it,” said Morgan County coach Reece Griffith of West Carter’s explosive start.
The Cougars offense settled in and responded with a 14-2 run to capture a 23-12 lead to close out the first quarter.
Waddell trimmed the gap to nine with a jumper to open the second frame.
Morgan County shot out of the gates in the second quarter and as the game wore on, the Cougars’ experienced talent won out.
G. Griffith torched the nylon to take the score to 26-14 at the 6:27 mark, igniting a 15-8 run.
It appeared to be a bad omen for the already struggling Comets offense, but they kept their no-quit attitude and responded with toughness and resilience.
The Cougars outscored the Comets 23-12 in the first quarter and 18-10 in the second frame.
Morgan County headed into the locker room up comfortably, 41-22.
West Carter notably controls the glass very well, but at halftime the Cougar’s held a slight 17-14 rebounding edge.
“I’m a believer in you come out and come ready to play every possession until you hear the horn sound. We got complacent defending shooters there at the start of the second half,” said Griffith of his Cougars coming out of the half leading by 19.
In the second half the youthful Comets, toting a fifteen-player roster – comprised of 11 freshmen and sophomores – struggled getting into any sort of offensive rhythm.
One thing is for certain about the Comets as they are reestablishing who they are, they do compete, and they do fight.
Webb has reiterated throughout the season that despite their record, his youthful Comets have fight in them.
In one respect, West Carter had an efficient night offensively, as they made 43 percent of their field goals.
The Comets also performed very well from the charity stripe, shooting 72.7 percent.
Morgan County capitalized on 17 points off ten Comet turnovers.
The Comets, however, improved their halftime deficit to win the rebounding battle 30-27.
West Carter has one game left to round out regular season play, as they visit Fleming County on Thursday.
Morgan County 23 18 21 18 – 82
West Carter 12 10 18 20 – 60
Morgan County (82)– Hoskins 29, Adams 15, Gatlin Griffith 14, Eli Griffith 9, Justice 4, Dagnan 4, Spencer 3, Gamble 2, Salyer 2. FG Pct: 62.5. FT Pct: 52.6. 3-Pointers: 12-23. (Logan 0-1, Eli Griffith 0-2, Adams 3-5, Hoskins 7-11, Gatlin Griffith 2-4, Spencer 0-1). Fouled out: None. Turnovers: 5.
West Carter (60) –Dailey 14, Waddell 11, Webb 11, Bledsoe 7, Carter 6, Rayburn 3, Dehart 2, Fuston 2, Manning 2, Parker 2. 2-Pt. FG: 42.6. FT: 72.7. 3-Pt. FG: 6-20 (Dailey 2-3, Waddell 1-2, Webb 2-4, Rayburn 1-5, Dehart 0-1, Carter 0-2, Manning 0-1, Parker 0-1, Boggs 0-1). Fouled out: None. Turnovers: 10.