MORRIS – The Kaneland boys basketball team could not build off its blazing start and suffered a 50-46 loss to Morris on Friday.
The Knights deflated an energized Morris student section by jumping out to a 12-3 lead. The Knights hit five of their first six shots from the floor, including a pair from junior point guard Drew David, the second of which forced a Morris timeout with 2:14 to play in the first quarter.
David would finish the game with a team-high 12 points.
Despite getting outrebounded, 10-2, in the first half and turning the ball over nine times, the Redskins finished the half trailing 27-18. The Knights did turn the ball over nine times, as well, but it felt like a lost opportunity for Kaneland coach Brian Johnson.
“I was happy with what we did in the first half, but the second quarter worried me a little bit because they started making some 3s, and the goal was to force them to drive,” Johnson said.
The Redskins notched their 15th win of the season in style on senior night against the Northern Illinois Big 12 East-leading Knights. And with Ben Ortiz, Morris’ leading scorer, sidelined with mononucleosis, the Redskins pulled out the dramatic win.
The slumping Knights need to win at Rochelle on Friday to ensure an outright conference title but were aided Friday by a Sycamore loss that kept the Spartans a game behind with one game to go, along with the Redskins.
After playing lackadaisically Tuesday in a home loss to Streator, and getting off to another slow start against one of the conference’s best teams, Morris found a much needed boost to start the second half. The Redskins made their first four shots from the field, including a pair of 3-pointers from sophomore forward Austin Patterson.
Patterson led Morris with 16 points, and Morris tied the score at 38 going into the fourth quarter.
“I thought us attacking the basket opened up some perimeter shots, and then once we started hitting perimeter shots they started face-guarding and that opened the lanes back up,” Morris coach Joe Blumberg said. “I thought that ability to score inside and outside was the difference.”
Ned Kneller played a role in Morris’ second-half surge, grabbing nine rebounds in the final two quarters after the Redskins had just two as a team in the first half.
“We needed somebody inside to pull down rebounds in the second half, and he was phenomenal,” Blumberg said of Kneller.
Meanwhile, the Knights struggled to pull within two possessions the majority of the final quarter until a bucket by junior forward John Pruett pulled Kaneland to within two with 1:03 to play. However, Morris ran the clock down and made free throws down the stretch.
David drilled a long 3-pointer with just five seconds to play that cut the lead to 50-48 with five seconds to play, but Morris successfully inbounded the ball forcing Kaneland to foul.
With Morris in the double-bonus, Jason Matteson hit both free throws to seal the victory.
“It felt really good,” Matteson said. “Right before (his first attempt) there was a little miscommunication on the subbing, and I ended up just taking a moment to look around and look at the place and see how packed it was. I was liking seeing everyone in Morris come out and watch us play.”