MORGAN CITY — The good news is Morgan City High School coach Jeremy Whittington picked up his 200th head coaching victory and the Tigers are 1-0 with Monday night’s win in the opening round of the Morgan City High Tiger Classic.
The bad news is Whittington, who called the game “a slopfest,” struggled to watch the poor performance by his squad.
Morgan City used free throws, something it had struggled with all night, to help pull away in the fourth quarter and beat West St. Mary, 43-33, in the nightcap of Monday’s action.
“It was pretty hard to watch,” Whittington said. “We never looked in sync at all offensively … On top of that, we didn’t play defense the way we’re used to playing. I know we only gave up 30 something points but there’s a gap there we’re supposed to create with offense and we didn’t do that.”
With the win, Morgan City will advance in winner’s bracket play where they will play Terrebonne High today at 7 p.m. in the Morgan City High School Multi-Purpose building. Terrebonne defeated Jeanerette, 53-47, in other first-round action Monday.
In Morgan City’s game Monday, both teams struggled to score early as neither team scored until Morgan City’s Tyrin Watts sank a three-pointer following a cross-court pass from teammate Taylor Brocato at the 4:51 mark of the first quarter.
Watts led Morgan City with a double-double with 25 points and 12 rebounds, while both Brocato and Jaylen Jones added five points apiece to lead Morgan City.
After Morgan City had taken as much as a 10-4 lead late in the first quarter on Jones’ three-pointer following an inbound pass, West St. Mary responded with consecutive baskets on Christopher Jones’ putback and on Glenn Marsh’s layup to cut the Morgan City advantage to 10-8.
In the second quarter, neither team could gain more than a two-point advantage.
While Brocato got past the West St. Mary defense for a layup and a 19-17 Morgan City lead, Marsh came back with a three-pointer with seconds remaining for a 20-19 West St. Mary lead at the half.
Although Morgan City held West St. Mary scoreless early in the third (the Wolfpack didn’t hit a basket until Theron Jack’s free throw at the 5:10 mark), Morgan City generated just four points on offense during that time frame.
Morgan City went through a lengthy drought in the third-quarter. After Watts’ put back with more than five minutes remaining in the contest, Morgan City didn’t score again until Watts’ next points on a drive to the basket with about 1:55 remaining for a 25-22 advantage.
Along with its shooting woes, Morgan City also struggled from the free throw line where they went 0-for-15 following Watts’ free throws early in the first quarter. Watts sank two fourth-quarter free throws to snap the drought and give Morgan City some cushion after West St. Mary had cut its deficit to 31-30 on a basket with about 5:20 left.
Watts went eight-of-11 alone in the fourth quarter from the line to help Morgan City pull out the victory. He finished the game 10-of-15 from the charity stripe, while the remainder of the Tigers combined to go 0-for-12.
“He finished the game definitely at the free throw line,” Whittington said. “It was big. But it was absolutely hard to watch the rest of the team miss … free throws. It was unbelievable.”
Watts added: “(I) just knew I had to get it done in order to help my team.”
Whittington said the difference in the game was offensive rebounds and uncontested shots.
West St. Mary coach Donald Sanders said that when Marsh, who he said was the only one available that had varsity experience, went out, it hurt his squad because he was left with freshmen and sophomores to play. He noted that another good ballplayer of his is out with an injury, while one more is ineligible.
“We just need to get ready for district, and we’ll be alright,” Sanders said.
As for his 200th win, Whittington, who has been a head coach 10 years said it was an "great honor" to earn as a head coach, but he said it “wasn’t a big deal for me.
“Because like I told our guys, I don’t measure our success by wins,” he said. “The relationship I have with these kids when they leave here is most important to me, and that’s what I spoke to them about. … I measure my success by the kids that we produce. What we’re putting out into the community every year and what those young men become, that’s more important to me than a win.”
In other first-round action Monday, South Lafourche defeated Franklin, 52-38, while Ellender blew out Centerville, 73-52.
Today’s other action features elimination games between Franklin and Centerville at 5:30 p.m., and Jeanerette and West St. Mary at 7 p.m., both in the boys’ gym.
Prior to Morgan City’s contest in the Multi-Purpose building, South Lafourche and Ellender will meet in the first winners’ bracket game at 5:30 p.m.