PLANO — Like an Irish prizefighter, the Morris Redskins had the top-seeded Belvidere Bucs on the ropes Thursday afternoon at the 50th Annual Plano Boys Christmas Classic.
A pair of treys by senior guard Jason Matteson midway through the third quarter stunned the Bucs before a 1-2 combination of treys by senior guard Sam Hogan and reserve sophomore guard Austin Patterson rocked defending champ Belvidere as Morris slugged its way out to a 33-26 lead.
But the Bucs countered, utilizing their quickness to climb up off the mat and knock the Redskins out of the championship bracket via a 56-46 decision.
"Their athleticism took over," pointed out Redskins coach Joe Blumberg. "I felt we controlled the tempo in the first half and they controlled the tempo in the second half."
Morris, thanks to gunning in the four treys, punched its way out to a 33-26 advantage with 2:42 remaining in the third period with its biggest lead (and just third of the game). Belvidere then scored 14 points on its final five possessions to assume a 40-35 lead as action died down.
Aside from the initial basket of the last quarter (a 12-foot jumper by junior forward Tanner Sampson) that got the Redskins within a trio, Morris could not come closer than five points the rest of the way. The Bucs, now 8-2, pulled away in the final two minutes as junior guard Maurice Jackson connected on a driving attempt before Belvidere cashed in on 6-of-10 from the charity stripe.
"I thought we played pretty well," said Matteson. "We played a lot better defensively than what we did yesterday (in a 61-60 comeback against eighth-seed Indian Creek). "We just need to play our own game a lot more."
Blumberg echoed Matteson's comments.
"I thought the effort was there," said Blumberg. "At times, we got sloppy (the Redskins had 19 turnovers while causing a half dozen)."
What kept Morris in the game was the sinking of seven treys, although the Redskins fired up 27 shots from beyond the arc. Matteson had a trio of treys and Hogan a pair. Senior center Ben Ortiz and Patterson chipped in with one each.
"We are hitting above 40 percent (trey shooting) for the season although we had an off night yesterday," said Blumberg. "But we felt confident being able to shoot the trey in an attempt to overcome their strength, length and experience."
Both teams were sluggish offensively in the opening half with Belvidere collecting the last six points to claim a 19-16 advantage. Matteson and Ortiz topped the Redskins with five markers each. Morris was 5-of-23 from the floor while the Bucs were 9-of-28.
Matteson hit a trey to forge a 24-24 deadlock at the 5:23 mark of the third stanza before putting the Redskins up 27-26 with another trey from the left elbow with 4:49 showing.
"It felt good to hit those shots," said Matteson. "I have not been shooting that well lately and any time you hit a three to put your team ahead or eliminate a deficit, it feels good."
Ortiz had 14 points and Matteson 11 to top Morris, now 6-4. Hogan had eight markers. Ortiz grabbed 11 rebounds for a double-double. Jackson and senior center Darius Brown countered with 16 points each for the Bucs.