PLANO — “Not enough inside touches, way too many outside shots.”
That was how Morris coach Joe Blumberg described his team’s offensive possessions Friday night during a 44-41 setback to Hinckley-Big Rock at the Plano Christmas Classic.
The reason he felt that way was obvious. Morris seemed content to dribble and pass around the perimeter rather than attacking the basket. The Redskins cranked up 26 three-point attempts to only 19 two-point tries. While they did connect on eight of those 26 shots, they settled for a lot of jumpers in shooting only 13-45 (29 percent) from the floor.
“Our offense is built around us getting the ball inside and kicking it back out for open shots or hitting a cutter. We did neither tonight,” said Blumberg.
The game started out well for the Redskins, as they led for most of the first quarter. That lead disappeared when Royals guard Michael Baylor stole an errant pass, drove in for an easy layup and was fouled. He hit the ensuing free throw, giving HBR their first lead of the night at 10-9. Following another steal and layup by the Royals, Morris guard Jake Hogan (eight points) closed out the first quarter scoring with a three-pointer to tie the game at 12.
The second period saw the Royals score the first six points, the last of those three baskets on a beautiful backdoor layup to go ahead 18-12. The Redskins trailed by 5-6 points for most of the quarter, slicing it to three on an Evan Bjelland (11 points) three pointer with 40 seconds to play before halftime. But the Morris defense was unable to come up with an answer as HBR scored the final four points to go into the break up 25-18.
HBR’s aggressive man-to-man defense allowed it to stretch its seven-point lead to 12 at 30-18 before Austin Patterson (9 points) hit a three ball to get the Redskins back to within double digits. The game then seemed to even out for a bit with the teams trading baskets. But the Royals never allowed Morris to chip their lead below seven going into the fourth quarter.
Following a Bjelland jumper to start the fourth, Patterson stuck to his man like glue, forcing a five-second count. But Morris was unable to capitalize on the turnover. HBR hit a three-pointer on its next possession and the lead was again eight. The Patterson caught fire, hitting back-to-back bombs from beyond the arc to get the Redskins to within two at 39-37.
But again, HBR had an answer, as it was able to grab a 42-38 lead with 1:30 to play. Two free throws by Hogan did cut the Redskin deficit to 43-41, but with just over 20 seconds to play, time was not the Redskins' ally. Following a Royal free throw and a missed offensive opportunity, Morris was able to force a Royal turnover and get the ball back, but a long three-point attempt at the buzzer was well off the mark and the Redskins fell to 2-2 in the tournament.
“We executed well late,” added Blumberg “but we can’t play the way we did defensively for 30 minutes in addition to our bad offensive execution for most of the game and expect to come back every night. It’s just too hard to win that way.”
Morris concludes tournament play at the Plano Christmas Classic Saturday at 4 p.m. in the seventh-place game. They will take on the Newark Norsemen, who fell to Seneca Friday evening.