Morehead’s Makel Smith hits for 52 points vs. Rockingham County:Panthers coach Damien Price sees positive signs for his Morehead men’s basketball team

from Jim Sands with Rockingham County…And this game was played right before the Thanksgiving Holidays kicked in, but with the points that the Morehead Panthers’ Makel Smith was pumping in, we thought you might like to see who he got it all done…..CLICK HERE to go straight to the hole, and to get the whole story/article/post, in the Post….

EDEN – Sometimes in sports, a player just has one of those in-the-zone nights, one where he feels like he just can’t miss. That was basically the case with Morehead junior Makel Smith, who dropped 52 points on cross-county rival Rockingham in the Panthers’ 91-62 win over the Cougars in the first game of the 2022-23 season Tuesday night in front of a packed house pumped up for the pending Thanksgiving holiday.

Initially, it was a tight game as the Panthers took the early two-possession lead, but back-to-back scores by Rockingham’s Maleek Bryant tied the game at 9-9 with 2:41 to go in the opening frame. Moments later, a 3-pointer by Jeremy Everitt gave the Cougars their first, and only, lead of the game at 12-11. Another late run punctuated with another 3-pointer by Smith put Morehead on top at the end of the first quarter with a 16-12 advantage.

A nice over-the-shoulder dish from Dalton Johnson to Jeremy Edwards for a score closed the margin, but back-to-back scores by Smith—a trio of buckets by Jordan Chandler, a triple by Gage Grogan, and another score by Jadan Martin had the Panthers in the driver’s set with a four-possession lead with just under six minutes to play in the second quarter. The Cougars continued to knock down shots to keep it from getting away from them, but another late push bumped the lead up to 41-28 at the half.

Things continued to turn in Morehead’s favor in the opening minutes of the third quarter, as several fast break scores, and a 3-pointer by Smith, set the tone. Six different Panthers players scored during that span as Smith continued to gather steam, pouring in 10 more to close out the third period to account for a big 71-44 lead to close out the frame.

By that time, the game was pretty much in the books as Smith made his curtain call in the fourth quarter and rained down his final trio of 3’s to eclipse the half c-note mark for the night. In the locker room after the game, Smith said he was feeling it all game long.

“It’s just that me and my teammates have built that chemistry. We know where everybody is on the court and they know that when I’m hot, get it to me. I can shoot it, and I won’t let them down. I just want to say ‘thank you’ to my teammates for trusting and believing in me and getting me the ball,” he said.

Smith hit seven 3-pointers and was 17 of 20 from the free throw line on his way to his career-high.

Chandler had 13, while Martin and Brittyn Barnes had 8 points each.

Lane Powell led the Cougars with 13 points and knocked down a pair of 3-pointers. Bryant scored 12 and Centaluis Graves added 9 more points for the Cougars, all in the second half.

Expectations are high for Morehead after winning the Mid-State 2A Conference regular season championship and making it to the second round of the 2A NCHSAA playoffs before losing to Monroe to close out 2021-2022. But the Panthers have a lot of holes to fill with the departure of last season’s senior class with key contributors in Lucas Lynn, Hayden Friese and Landon Carter.

“There was a little uncertainty coming in because losing four starters from last year that were seniors, so there were a few question marks as to how we were going to handle the new guys in the lineup especially in a rivalry game. I thought they responded. There are definitely some things we need to work on. We pulled away towards the end, but overall I was pleased with things,” Morehead head coach Damien Price said.

The coach says he believes in Smith’s scoring ability and understands he always gives his team a chance to win. However, Price is going to continue to push the talented guard and reward him when it is earned.

“Tonight, I was proud of him offensively. We all know he can do that. What I wasn’t proud of was him out there reaching and picking up several not so-smart fouls. But there was a point, he figured out at the end that he was close to 50. I really didn’t want to put him back in—I wanted to show good sportsmanship, but he’s a kid that wakes me up early at six in the morning to let him come in and shoot in the gym. He puts in the work, so I thought he deserved it to hit that mark,” said Price.

Meanwhile, the Cougars are looking to turn the tide following last season’s 4-18 finish, and first-year head coach Josh Evans is determined to turn things around.

“We’ll be back at 8 o’clock in the morning working on defense. You are not going to win ball games giving up 91 points. We sent them to the free throw line 30 times tonight – that’s just terrible defense. So we are going to get back tomorrow morning on basics and defense. We gave up 52 points to Makel, and 91 in the game and that’s just a big defensive letdown . . . I’ve been super-proud of this team and the work they have put in up to this point. We’ve had good scrimmage play, and a good jamboree, but obviously I was a bit surprised tonight with our breakdown on defensive intensity,” said Evans.