By Jeffery Armstrong
Change is the word for the Morrow High School basketball teams as they prepare to host the 14th annual Arrowhead Classic Thanksgiving Tournament tonight.
Gone from the halls of Morrow are impact seniors Roc Whaley and Kirby Copeland, two players who helped the Mustangs and Lady Mustangs win the 2002-03 Region 2-AAAAA championships. It was the first time in two years that a Clayton County high school produced region champions in both boys and girls basketball.
The Arrowhead Tournament begins tonight through Wednesday, then resumes on Friday and Saturday. Morrow's teams get to scout opponents for the first two nights; they start tourney play on Wednesday.
During the Jonesboro Lady Cardinals Shootout on Nov. 13, it seemed Morrow really missed Copeland. The Lady Mustangs did not look like defending Region 2-AAAAA champions as they were pummeled by the Riverdale Lady Raiders 75-49, falling to 0-1. Riverdale, the defending Region 4-AAAAA champs, advanced to the state AAAAA Final Four last season.
"Right now, we're searching for leadership," said Lady Mustangs head coach Yolanda Jenkins. "We need to find that go-to person that Kirby was. We have to get a more aggressive personality."
Morrow, 23-7 last season, will get a chance to get back on the winning track as they play Mundy's Mill Wednesday at 6 p.m.
Hopefully the Lady Mustangs will make some shots as the season progresses. Shots bounced in and out for Morrow, which led to many fast-break points for Riverdale. They also must control turnovers and get balanced scoring from others to go along with returning starting post player Jordan Greenleaf, a sophomore. Morrow returning starters Chiquita Coleman and Brittany Swilley scored nine points apiece against Riverdale, but they only combined for five points in the second half.
"We have good shooters, they just need to take better shots," Jenkins said. "Somebody on the bench has to step up as well."
Shooting the ball shouldn't be a problem for the Morrow boys, said head coach Jay Livingston. The problem will be whether his quick team will be able to stay in control.
"The challenge for us will be if we can stay within our system and make the proper reads," Livingston said. "Sometimes, the guys go a little too fast and make mistakes."
Livingston believes his senior guards Calvin Goss and Omar Stephens make up the best backcourt in Region 2-AAAAA. Both are deadly shooters from 3-point range and can either play the point and shooting guard. Livingston likes this team's versatility. The guards and wing players can all play multiple positions and the big men are improved, which could lead to matchup problems for opponents.
The Morrow boys, 21-5 last year, may not be as big as they have been in the past, but they still have some good big men in 6-8 Corderrel Humphrey, 6-4 Keith Jones and 6-4 Richard "Bam" Jennings.
"I think that with our combo players and our talent level, we can represent Clayton County in the state playoffs," Livingston said. "We'd like to win our tournament, but we've been invited to the Peach State Classic in December and we really want to win that."
Morrow gets it tourney started Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. against Forest Park.
Teams in the tourney include boys and girls teams from Southside, Stone Mountain, East Coweta, and Tri-Cities. Local teams include the Lovejoy boys and girls, the Forest Park boys and girls, the Mundy's Mill girls and the North Clayton boys.
Lovejoy's boys face North Clayton Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.