Morgan out of tourney

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 10, 2008

Memory of team supporter carries Senators through season

By George L. Jones

The Selma Times-Journal

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MONTGOMERY – To call Morgan Academy’s season disappointing, in some respects, would be inaccurate.

When the team began practice in October, the players and coaches tried to do more than just win ball games.

“This whole season was dedicated to the memory of Donald Buster,” Morgan head coach Lee Tate said moments after the Senators lost to Cottage Hill in the regional playoffs at Faulkner University. “The players played this season in his memory. He helped so many people on this team, whether it was the players or Coach (Britt) Mott.”

The team felt a large void after Buster, a local veterinarian, died last June. The number he wore while he played at Morgan, 22, is emblazoned on the left breast of each players’ uniform.

It might have been that force that drove the Senators (17-7) to some improbable wins this season, including a last-second, one-point win the last time they played Cottage Hill.

But it wasn’t enough Friday night in a 59-50 defeat. In a word, Tate can tell you what decided the game – rebounding.

“We worked on that all last week,” he said. “That was our one advantage. You get long rebounds because they’re a 3-point shooting team, and tonight they shot three.”

The Warriors (20-7) out-rebounded Morgan 33-27, most of those coming on the offensive end, and they got second-chance points whenever they needed to.

Ultimately, though, free throws made the difference.

Heath Harrelson missed a pair from the line that would have tied the game at 52 with less than a minute left.

Taking advantage of Morgan’s need to foul, Cottage Hill made 7-of-8 from the stripe to put the game out of reach. Andrew Ray scored a game-high 15 points for the Warriors, who move on to the AISA Class 3A Final Four. Despite an injury to his shooting hand, Chris Wyatt scored 13, and Seth Cazalas scored 11.

Weston Mason led Morgan with 11 points, and both Coal Brown and Sam Tate scored nine.

“The better team won tonight, but I’m real proud,” Lee Tate said. “They’re a bunch of overachievers. They went 7-15 last year, and nobody thought they’d be here. Cottage Hill is a good team. They’re very disciplined, and they have a great coach. I just thank the Lord for giving us the opportunity to be here.”