The Morrison Eagles fell just one game shy of a return to the state championship game in the James C. Haile State Tournament. Thursday night, the Eagles got the short end of the stick in a controversial loss to Pickett County.
The game was won in the first half as the Bobcat defense surrounded the Eagles. By halftime the Eagles had lost both their coaches due to technical fouls. Head coach Kyle Cannon and assistant coach Jimmy Cannon were tossed after the duo questioned officials over calls against the Eagles.
Morrison’s offense never had a chance to get off the ground and Pickett County defeated Morrison, 53-34.
Assistant coach Jimmy Cannon said, “I’ve been coaching 30 years and have never been ejected until tonight.”
Irving Espinoza once again led the Eagle offense with an explosive 24 points. Espinoza won the game in the closing seconds earlier in the week on a 3-point shot over two defenders. He connected six times from beyond the arch against a very quick and poised Bobcat defense.
For Pickett County, Parker George led the Bobcats in scoring with 15 and Zack Amonette added 14.
The Bobcats made a statement in the first quarter and outscored the Eagles 17-5. The defensive pressure by the Bobcats was immense and Morrison was taken out of its game right from the start. Espinoza was not able to get inside the defense and settled for a long 3-pointer. Kasen Holder was the only other player for Morrison to find the range in the first quarter.
Pickett County took advantage and made the most of its opportunities at the rim. The Bobcats poured in 17 first-quarter points and after one, Morrison trailed 17-5.
Morrison’s Rylan Holder got inside the Bobcat defense and scored his only points of the game before the half. Espinoza knocked down his second 3-pointer and Kasen Holder connected for the second time.
George really caught fire in the second quarter for Pickett County as he dropped nine of his 15-point total before the half. Fouls by Morrison started to take their toll on the Eagle defense and the Bobcats went to the free-throw line and shot 5-of-8 before the half.
Technical fouls were given to both Morrison coaches and both were ejected at the half as emotions escalated and the officials were questioned about their choice of fouls.
After halftime, Monty Childers, Kim Cantrell, and Lynn Cantrell took the reins of the Eagle team. Morrison was clearly distracted with the loss of its coaches. It was Kasen Holder and Espinoza who combined for six points in the third quarter.
Pickett County slowed the pace after the offensive assault in the first half and decided to burn time off the clock. The Bobcats still managed to add nine more points and by the end of the third quarter Morrison trailed 43-18.
The Eagles finally got into rhythm in the fourth quarter. Espinoza knocked down four more 3-pointers and hit the lanes hard and made it all the way inside for two points. Kasen Holder slipped free again and scored his final basket.
It was much too late for Morrison to make a run for the lead in the fourth. Morrison’s second run at a state championship fell one game shy and the Eagles were defeated, 53-34.
BOBCAT SCORING – Parker George 15, Zack Amonette 14, Remington White 11, John Parker Reagan 7, Luke Smith 2
EAGLE SCORING – Irving Espinoza 24, Kasen Holder 8, Rylan Holder 2.