Buchanan integral part of Lady Mountaineers’ success
The 2017-18 Mitchell Lady Mountaineers are a powerhouse. Ranked No. 1 in Class 1A and rife with experience and talent, in the middle, literally, is senior Morgan Buchanan.
The 6-foot senior center/power forward is averaging a double-double this season – 14 points and 12 rebounds – and has accomplished the feat in eight of the Lady Mountaineers’ 13 games.
“She battles hard,” said Zack McCartha, second-year Lady Mountaineers head coach. “The place she has improved the most is on the boards. She makes it really hard for other teams to get to the basketball.”
Buchanan has been on varsity since her freshman year and a starter since her sophomore season. She missed her entire eighth-grade year at Bowman with a broken ankle.
It is no secret she wants to play basketball in college, and that possibility seems more likely as the season progresses. No fewer than seven colleges have expressed interest in Buchanan and she has made two official visits.
“I don’t want to regret a decision,” she said. “The thing I hear the most is college coaches like my height, my ability to rebound and see a chance to develop me even more.”
For now, however, Buchanan is focused on the task at hand, and that is winning a state championship with her teammates, many of whom she has been playing with or against since elementary school.
“We have a title on our minds,” she said. “Our plan is to go really deep in the playoffs and play at Chapel Hill. It would be a great experience just to be there. Our mindset is we can go really far.”
McCartha met with each player individually when he took the reins of the Lady Mountaineers’ program before the 2016-17 season. After a 50-48 loss to Cherokee in the second round of the playoffs this past season, Buchanan said McCartha again met with each player.
“He told us he was willing to put forth the effort to improve and wanted us to do the same,” she said.
Senior Emma Duncan has a long history of playing basketball with Buchanan. As the de facto team leader, Duncan said she is not surprised by Buchanan’s productivity on the court this season.
“I expected great things from her this season,” Duncan said. “She has worked hard and her whole attitude has changed. In my mind, I trust her to make a shot more than I trust me to make it.”
Buchanan’s double-digit averages in points and rebounds have caused her to be the focal point of opponents’ strategies.
“Before the Avery County game, we heard their coach tell them to try and get me in foul trouble,” she said. “Their tactic was to pump fake, make me foul them and try to make me play mad.”
Buchanan did not get in foul trouble. She was routinely double and triple-teamed and finished the game with 14 points and 12 rebounds in the 46-42 win over the No. 8-ranked Vikings.
Buchanan and her teammates give an abundance of credit to the team’s success so far this season to McCartha.
“Before coach McCartha came I never really thought about working out or anything,” Buchanan said. “I just thought my potential would just come around as time went on. But he got me in the weight room and we went to team camps, which helped us play together as a unit. I do every little thing I can, even if it’s optional, I’m there. Coach McCartha knows how good I can be and how good our team can be and he tells us that.”
Her teammates all see each other as integral parts of the team, she said.
“This team really meshes together,” she said. “We knew we had the chemistry, we knew we had the ability and we were done waiting to be as good as we are. We push each other a lot. Emma has more trust in me now and she sees the floor better. We all have the basketball smarts needed to be a really good team.”
Another factor motivating Buchanan this season is the team’s depth. The Lady Mountaineers often have eight or nine players getting significant playing time, which means a spot in the starting lineup is never a guarantee.
“It’s all about effort with Coach McCartha,” Buchanan said. “We have such depth on our team we have to win our starting spot every day, in every practice. As a result, we are completely prepared for each game. We prepare like crazy. Nothing is a surprise for us and we are always aware.”
The absence of inexperience has in a way put the players’ minds at ease, which has translated to a chemistry on the floor McCartha admits is one of those things that cannot be coached.
“Morgan is having a great season, but she also has such good teammates,” he said. “That’s the most impressive part of this team. They have each other’s backs and they do what it takes to win.”
Position: Center/power forward
Jersey No.: 34
Colleges showing interest: UNC Greensboro, Warren Wilson, Bluefield State, Wayne State, Belmont Abbey, North Greenville, others
Family: Mom, Tina; dad, Chad; brother, Tyler, 14; brother, Tanner, 10
Stats: points per game, 13.9; rebounds per game, 12.9; steals per game, 1.7; blocks per game, 1.5
Season highs: points, 22 vs. Patton; rebounds, 17 (two times) vs. Rosman and McDowell