LA SALLE — What at times has been only a three-headed monster evolved into a full five-man attack Monday at the IHSA Class 3A La Salle-Peru Boys Basketball Regional.
Known to rely primarily on the scoring of Kjeld Torkelson, Kevin Henry and Josh DeGraaf, the Morris Redskins incorporated their other two starters more directly into their offense. Seniors Andy Oehlwein and Greg Nordstrom were two of the three Redskins in double figures as they defeated Sandwich 52-42 in a quarterfinal game.
While Torkelson led Morris with 16 points, the 12 scored by Oehlwein and the 10 from Nordstrom helped keep the Redskins in the lead from early in the second quarter onward. Six more points off the bench from junior guard Phil Struck also contributed to the Redskins earning a regional meeting with La Salle-Peru for the third year in a row. Seeded fourth, the Redskins will play the No. 1 Cavaliers in a semifinal game Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.
"I think by now we all know our roles and do the best we can in them," said Nordstrom. "My job is to do what I can with what's there on offense. I know they were hurting us on the offensive boards in the first half. So I went out and tried to do the same and crash the boards, and I got two of my baskets that way."
The Indians held Torkelson and DeGraaf scoreless and Henry to a lone field goal during the first quarter as they claimed a 9-7 lead. An Oehlwein 3 and a Struck drive and score kept the Redskins close, as did their defense holding Sandwich to 4-for-12 shooting.
"Honestly, we didn't expect them to come out in a triangle-and-2," said Morris coach Joe Blumberg. "It bothered us early and frustrated us a little bit. Sometimes Kjeld, when an opponent is really focused on him like they were, will shy away from the ball."
Oehlwein lifted the Redskins into the lead right away in the second quarter, scoring on a drive to the basket and hitting a 3, all within the first 2 minutes. Torkelson got on the board with a drive of his own on Morris' next possession to give the Redskins a 14-9 lead. Sandwich started the quarter 0-for-7 from the field.
"That's it. There were a lot of open looks there that they were willing to give me," said Oehlwein. "If it there, I've got to take it and prove it to them that I have the ability to make it and make them pay."
By halftime, the Redskins led 24-20 thanks to a pair of conventional 3-point plays from Torkelson, who finished the first half with a team-high 8 points after being shut out for the initial 10 minutes of game time. He then made a pair of 3-point baskets during the third quarter as the Redskins remained ahead 35-30.
Sandwich senior David Meyer made a pair of free throws late in the third to keep the Indians as close as they were. Meyer scored within the final 2 seconds of each of the first three quarters, making a turnaround at the buzzer to end the first and putting back a teammate's miss at the conclusion of the second.
Struck began the fourth quarter with a made jumper, and a Torkelson layup lifted the Redskins to a 39-31 lead less than 2 minutes in. Sandwich scored the game's next 3 points but got no closer than 5 points to the lead the rest of the way. To maintain and add to their lead, the Redskins made 11 of their last 15 free-throw attempts.
"You hope your senior point guard, when put in that position, can knock down those free throws, and he certainly did," said Blumberg of Oehlwein, who made 4-of-6 attempts on the night. Nordstrom was 4-for-5 from the line, and Henry, Struck and Torkelson added two makes apiece.
Though Henry was limited to 6 points on the night, he led all players with nine rebounds and also contributed one of Morris' eight blocked shots. DeGraaf and Torkelson had three blocks each, with DeGraaf adding five rebounds, three assists and two steals. Meyer and Justin Wegener led Sandwich with 15 points each.
Next up for the Redskins is L-P, which beat them 55-45 last spring at the 3A Streator Regional. This year, Morris lost twice to the Cavaliers — 54-38 at La Salle on Dec. 4 and again Feb. 13 in a rescheduled game at Morris. Morris did claim a 47-33 victory over the Cavaliers in a 2008 regional opener.
"They're tough," said Nordstrom. "The second time we played them, we had them [Morris held a double-digit lead at halftime] and let them pull it out. I can't say exactly what will happen, but I know we're happy to get a rematch with them."