Miranda H. Lewis
Carter County Times
Heading into Wednesday night’s semi-finals of the Boy’s 62nd District Basketball Tournament at Morgan County High School, the homestanding Cougars owned the best regular season record inside the 16th Region at 20-7 on the year.
Survive and advance is the name of the game this time of the year, and that’s exactly what Morgan County was able to do on its home floor.
The Cougars displayed a balanced offensive attack, led by Gatlin Griffith with 16 points as Coach Reece Griffith and company limited and then eliminated the West Carter Comets in a 71-49 game.
“It’s a tough way to end the season,” said Coach Jeremy Webb.
He added, “I’m really proud of my guys for how hard they played until the very end.”
With the win, Morgan County advanced to the championship game of the Boy’s 62nd District Basketball Tournament on Friday to face another familiar foe in the East Carter Raiders. (See Morgan County defeats East Carter in this edition.)
The Cougars put on a shooting clinic by sinking three of four 3-pointers in the first quarter to take a quick 16-5 lead over the Comets.
West Carter, 7-19 on the season and a prohibitive underdog coming into the game, settled and recomposed themselves late in the second frame for the team’s best offensive showing of the affair.
The duo of Brett Dailey and Nathan Webb got to work to motivate a determined Comet squad.
At the intermission, the Comets trailed the Cougars 31-15.
Webb tallied seven points followed by Dailey with six for West Carter.
Morgan County’s 16-point lead at the half was largely thanks to their ability to capitalize on turnovers. At the end of the first half, West Carter had eight turnovers allowing the Cougars to claim 16 points.
Webb noted his team’s hesitation and turnovers as the true difference-makers in the game’s 22-point margin.
The Cougars hot shooting, especially in the third quarter, exacerbated the Comets offensive struggles.
West Carter shot 36% from the field for the contest and only 19% from beyond the arc.
Webb led the Comets in scoring with 18 points, followed by Dailey with ten points.
Webb spoke with hopefulness about the promising future of the entire 16th region.
“Our region is full of juniors with valuable experience,” said Webb. “There are so many very good players that will be coming back next year.”
Although, the 2022-2023 basketball season is over for the Comets, Webb is optimistic for what’s to come for his team.
“Next year and the year after will be better for us,” he said.
With that premise in mind, he added, “we have a great group of sophomores coming up.”
Dailey and Webb led the Comets this season with eleven points per game respectively. With a supporting cast that includes the likes of Jacob Waddell and Jordan Fuston in the starting five and a deep bench, it’s the Comets’ depth — and the way the team reliably count on them — that will make the Comet team so dangerous in the upcoming seasons.
Morgan County – 18 13 23 17- 71
West Carter – 8 7 9 25 – 49
Morgan County (71)-, Gatlin Griffith 16, Adams 14, Eli Griffith 14, Hoskins 11, Spencer 7, Gamble 3, Justice 2, Trusty 2, Joe Spencer 2. FG Pct: 54.9. FT Pct: 50.0. 3-Pointers: 38.9. (Gamble 1-1, Eli Griffith 0-3, Adams 2-3, Hoskins 1-6, Gatlin Griffith 4-6). Fouled out: None. Turnovers:10.
West Carter (49) – Webb 18, Dailey 10, Fuston 6, Waddell 6, Rayburn 4, Easterling 2, Wagoner 2, Lawson 1. 2-Pt. FG: 35.6. FT: 70.0. 3-Pt. FG: 18.8 (Webb 3-4, Rayburn 0-2, Carter 0-3, Parker 0-3, Dailey 0-4). Fouled out: None. Turnovers: 19.