NEW ORLEANS — The St. Augustine Purple Knights were bigger, thicker and longer than Morgan City High School
For MCHS, that meant keep the ball away from them, even if the only way to do so was to hold onto it for long offensive series.
While the plan limited St. Augustine’s offensive touches, it did not help Morgan City who struggled on offense and was eliminated in the first round of the Class 4A playoffs on Monday night here, 60-15.
After St. Augustine took a 3-0 lead on its first possession via an offensive putback by Kris Rapheal and a subsequent free throw after he was fouled on the play, Morgan City went to work employing its offensive strategy.
On its first offensive possession, Morgan City melted approximately two minutes off the clock by moving the ball around before its first inside shot was rejected by St. Augustine.
“We’ve done it before,” Morgan City coach Jeremy Whittington said of the offensive strategy. “We had to do it a couple times in district to get wins. I thought that what we were up against was a complete size difference. They stood probably at least 10, 12 inches over us at every position.”
While it worked before, it didn’t work Monday night as the offensive series would set the down for what was to come: St. Augustine would run its offense, while Morgan City continued to move the ball around looking for an open three-pointer or inside shot on its offensive trips.
Other times, Morgan City didn’t kick the ball out to its open men to attempt threes.
“We knew going in if we didn’t play perfect, we wouldn’t have a shot to play with them,” Whittington said.
When it got good looks under the basket, shots either were blocked or Morgan City turned the ball over in the paint.
The strategy, though, did limit St. Augustine, who was held to 10 points in the first quarter.
However, Morgan City was held scoreless.
In fact, the Tigers didn’t convert their first basket until 4:19 was remaining in the first-half game clock when Jaylen Johnson sank a three-pointer to cut the St. Augustine lead to 15-3.
St. Augustine would close out the quarter on a 5-0 run for a 20-3 lead at the half.
It didn’t help Morgan City, either, that its second-leading scorer, Tyrin Watts, was kicked off the team for violating team policies, Whittington said.
In the second half, however, the Purple Knights used the three ball to extend its lead, connecting on three of them in the quarter en route to a 20 point output for the quarter.
Morgan City, meanwhile, mustered just five points in the quarter.
In the second half, like the first, Morgan City had more offensive shots but they were rushed because of St. Augustine’s size.
“I don’t see how they couldn’t win state again,” Whittington said of St. Augustine, the defending 5A state champions who dropped down to Class 4A this year. “They’re too good not to.”
Even in the dominant win, the Purple Knights were without their starting point guard and Texas commit Javan Felix, the reigning Class 5A player of the year, who was nursing an injury.
Morgan City managed just a three pointer by Jaylen Jones and two Brannon Randle free throws in the third quarter.
In the fourth, all of Morgan City’s points came at the free throw line.
St. Augustine coach Cliff Barthe said that his squad has had teams play him like Morgan City has, but they can adjust to it on defense.
Morgan City didn’t start aggressively passing inside until late in the fourth quarter when St. Augustine put its reserves in. However, they still couldn’t achieve any success.
Deion Taylor and Craig Victor both reached double figures for St. Augustine with 14 and 10 points, respectively.
For Morgan City, Jones led the way with nine points, while Randle and Johnson added two, and Carl Singleton and Malcom Watkins had a point apiece.
Despite the loss, Whittington lauded the efforts of his two seniors, Johnson and Derrick Walker.
Whittington said Johnson is a competitor.
“He hates losing and there’s a reason we won a lot of ball games (in four years) with him,” Whittington said.
As for Walker, Whittington said he gets the team fired up and is always willing to do what Whittington asks.
“(It) doesn’t matter how small (he is), he’s going to step in and play defense like most kids can’t,” Whittington said.