Even before the start of Friday night’s Northern Illinois Big 12 East Conference basketball game, people in the Morris gymnasium knew that the Redskins and visiting Yorkville Foxes were evenly matched.
“Coach (Joe) Blumberg and I were talking before the game and we agreed at the the two teams are kind of mirror images of each other,” Yorkville coach Dan McGuire said.
It seems almost fitting then that a game played between two teams with 8-6 records should go down to the final shot. That final shot went to Morris, but Yorkville managed to stave off any last minute drama with a defensive stand to record a 41-40 victory.
Morris had a 39-37 lead with :59 left to play when guard Jake Hogan made one of two free throws, but Yorkville turned out to be the team making the plays down the stretch.
“We had the seniors out there, out on their home floor,” Morris coach Blumberg lamented after the game. “They (the Foxes) hit the clutch free throws when they needed to and made the big plays and we didn’t.”
Yorkville’s Dakota Gette made two free throws with :20 remaining to account for what turned out to be the final score. Morris brought the ball up past midcourt and called timeout with eight seconds remaining to set up a play. A play that Yorkville was ready for.
“We figured they would go to (Ben) Ortiz because he’s made a lot of great shots like that for them,” McGuire said. “We figured it would either be him of Hogan. Things went our way tonight. We were lucky.”
The ball was inbounded to Ortiz at the top of the key but he was double teamed right away and had to pass to Hogan off to the left of the basket for an off-balance three pointer that missed.
“We wanted him (Ortiz) to take the final shot because he’s real good at making that 4-5-6 foot shot,” Hogan said. “But they (the Foxes) switched up to a zone and his pass to me was a little late.”
Morris trailed 15-10 after the first quarter and then 26-23 at halftime. However, the Redskins came back to take a 32-27 lead in the third quarter before settling on a 35-31 advantage heading into the final quarter.
For the game, the Redskins were 12-of-34 from the field (35 percent) and the Foxes 13-of-34 (38 percent). The big difference was at the free throw line as Yorkville made 11-of-14 and Morris just 7 -of-15.
“It’s very disappointing losing at home,” Hogan said. “The two teams are very even and the game could have gone either way. I guess it comes down to whoever wants it more and it looks like they wanted it more right now.”