MORGAN — It's a well-known and frequently quoted fact: defense wins championships.
Morgan High used a tough and determined defensive effort in the middle quarters to post a 68-38 Region 11 victory over Judge Memorial in prep girls basketball action Thursday night.
"Good defense makes good offense,” Morgan senior center Chelsey Stegelmeier said. “Being in a close game in the first quarter was intense. It was like it will be at state. In the second quarter, we played better defense, especially on the inside. We still need to step in the lane better, but it was fun."
In the first half it was a physical game by both squads. The Bulldogs (11-7, 3-5) gave Morgan (16-3, 8-0) all it could handle early on by nearly matching the Trojans basket for basket in the first quarter. Judge's leading scorer freshman Kailie Quinn (11.8 points per game) and senior Mary Neville hit back-to-back 3-point bombs from the top of the arch to help keep the Trojans in their sights.
Morgan's first quarter lead of 20-15 was due in part to some steady 3-point shooting of its own with senior Shaelee Pentz hitting two 3-point baskets and senior Ashley "Spud" Garfield knocking one down from downtown.
Morgan coach Brad Matthews thought his squad was way too accommodating to their opponent in the first quarter. "Defensively in the first quarter I thought we played terrible,” he said. “They were making us play their game, and we were letting them do what they wanted to do. I liked how we played defense in the second, we really buckled down and only allowed three points in the quarter."
Garfield nearly outscored the Bulldogs by herself in the first half going off for 15 points on an array of drives to the hoops, mid-range jumpers and put-back buckets off of the offensive glass. The Trojans doubled up the Bulldogs at the break, 36-18. Garfield scored the first seven points of the half to push Morgan’s lead to 43-18.
"It was great effort by Ashley. It's all effort,” Matthews said. “She shot the ball great from the outside, but for her, offensive rebounds and put-backs are big."
Morgan held the Bulldogs to 11 points in the second and third quarters.
Morgan’s freshman point guard Rashel Blazzard had a perfect shooting night by going 3-for-3 from 3-point land and 3-for-3 from the foul line. "We tried to play better help-side defense and just stay in front of your man,” Blazzard said of Morgan’s defensive effort in the middle quarters. “In the first quarter, I could tell there was some tension, but later on we were able to just pick up our intensity."
Garfield led Morgan with 25 points, 15 rebounds, three steals and three assists, while Blazzard added 12 points, two rebounds and two assists and senior Rachael Johnson added seven points, seven rebounds, four assists, three steals and a blocked shot. Sydney Richards led the Bulldogs with nine points, while Quinn and Yesenia Villegas scored eight and seven points, respectively.
Bill Bateman helps cover some of the Morgan High School athletics for the Morgan County News.