If it was survival of the fittest, first-year Morgan City coach Terence McCutcheon loved his team’s chances to walk into Ellender’s House of Pain and come away with a win.
Morgan City used a strong fourth-quarter rally to send Friday’s District 7-4A showdown into overtime.
In overtime, the Tigers took advantage of several Ellender turnovers and hit clutch free-throws in the final seconds to pull off an 89-84 win over the Patriots.
Morgan City (22-5 overall, 4-0 in district) took control of the District 7-4A standings with the win over Ellender (10-14 overall, 3-1 in district).
McCutcheon, a former Nicholls State University basketball player, said he credited the Tigers’ conditioning in pulling off the win.
“That’s our style. We play up-and-down the court,” McCutcheon said. “Usually as the game goes on longer, we get better at that and teams kind of tire out. We saw some of their guys cramping and I noticed body language in some of their players that they were getting tired, but we just kept playing.”
Ellender coach Cornell Scott said the Patriots made too many mistakes in the final stages of the fourth quarter and overtime
“It was a good game. Coach McCutcheon had his guys ready to play,” Scott said. “We just didn’t execute at the end of the game. We had some chances to put it away. Some of our guys took some bad shots. If we maintain and take of the ball, we come out on the winning end, but we didn’t. It’s not the end of the world. It was just a good job by Coach McCutcheon and Morgan City.”
The showdown between the two district rivals was close throughout with Ellender leading 21-13 after the first quarter and Morgan City taking a 39-37 advantage at halftime.
In the third quarter, the Patriots started to distance themselves with a key 23-11 run. J’amire Mott, who led the Patriots with 17 points, converted a three-point play that made it 52-45 with 2:44 left in the third quarter.
Kobe Hartman had his fourth dunk of the night on a fastbreak play in the final seconds of the quarter that extended the Patriots lead to 60-50 at the end of the third quarter.
The Tigers refused to go away. Marquese Charles scored seven of his 13 points in the fourth quarter to lead the comeback charge. Trailing 74-72, Morgan City’s Taaj Daniels tied the game with a layup with 7.3 seconds remaining to send the game to overtime.
In overtime, Daniels put the Tigers up 83-82 with 35 seconds left. After two costly Patriots turnovers, Daniels helped seal the win by making 4-of-4 free throws in the final seconds.
Daniels, who had 18 points, said keeping their composure late was key.
“It’s a big win for our team," Daniels said. "We just trusted in our coach and trusted in our system. At the end of the day, we got it done. We’ve been in that situation many times throughout the season. It’s just the character of our team. We always fight back and find a way. We were able to come together and get the win.”
Jared Singleton also scored 18 points for Morgan City, while Tywaun Walker had 15 points.
After Friday’s win, Morgan City will try to wrap up an outright district title with wins over Vandebilt Catholic (Tuesday) and Assumption (Friday) next week.
“I think it’s big for the community,” McCutcheon said. “I’m familiar with the tradition of Morgan City. It’s been awhile since they’ve had a win like this. For us to come here and get a win and kind of put Morgan City back into people’s mind, it feels great.”
Other leaders for Ellender were Kobe Hartman (16 points), Marquie Mosely (15 points), Davarin Brown (14 points) and Askyre Anderson (12 points).
Despite the loss, Scott said the Patriots will quickly move on and continue focusing on the rest of the season. Entering this season, Ellender has won six straight district titles.
“We really don’t worry about district championships because we have a bigger goal in mind. We have enough of them in our book,” Scott said. “Our ultimate goal is to make it to state and to the playoff and try to win a state title.”
FRIDAY’S GIRLS BASKETBALL CAPSULE
ELLENDER 83, MORGAN CITY 53 (at Houma, District 7-5A game)
Score by quarters: Ellender led 16-6 after the first quarter, 37-25 at halftime and 68-39 at the end of the third quarter.
Statistical leaders: Ellender – Orieon James (18 points, eight rebounds), Marghan Frierson (15 points, six rebounds), Trastasia Hester (10 points), Carly Anderson (nine points); Morgan City – Alisha Singleton (23 points).
Records: Morgan City (13-14 overall; 1-5 in district); Ellender (21-6 overall; 6-0 in district).
Note: Ellender clinched a perfect season in District 7-4A play with the win.