Following a thrilling end to the girls portion of Saturday’s boys/girls varsity double-header against La Salle-Peru, the Morris Redskins were able to complete the sweep with a 56-49 win in the boys game. The Redskins improved to 11-7 with the victory behind 23 points from senior forward Ben Ortiz and 16 points from senior guard Jason Matteson.
However, the Redskins got out to a painfully sluggish start against Northern Illinois Big 12 crossover rival L-P. Morris missed its first five shots from beyond the arc and at one point fell behind 17-6 before a three by sophomore Austin Patterson late in the first quarter would cut the lead to 17-9 to end of the period.
In the second quarter, with the Redskins struggling to find an identity offensively, Matteson essentially took over. “Boomer” scored all 16 of his points in the second and third quarters, with seven coming in the second and nine coming in the third, respectively. In fact, he scored the final seven points for Morris of the half and helped cut the L-P lead to 24-22.
“For me, personally, I loved it,” Matteson said of his mid-game burst. “I have not been shooting well and hitting those threes really gave me a lot of confidence to shoot. As a team, we just did a really good job of taking care of the ball at that point (Morris had zero second quarter turnovers) and did a good job of finding the open man.”
In the third quarter, Morris took back the lead with a pair of quick buckets highlighted by a nifty reverse from Ortiz. Meanwhile, Matteson continued to stay hot, as he sandwiched a traditional three-point play in between a pair of modern trifectas. Matteson would hit four triples on the day and he and Ortiz would go on to combine for all 18 of the Redskins third quarter points.
“It was 19-9 early, and I thought our three seniors (Matteson, Ortiz and Jake Hogan) were not playing particularly well,” Morris head coach Joe Blumberg said. “We pulled those three for a stretch and I think they responded very well to that.”
In the fourth quarter, with the Redskins carrying a 40-34 lead, Morris went into what was essentially their ball-control offense. The ‘Skins milked the clock and were able to maintain possession, including one possession that ended in free throw attempts for Hogan that wound 60-65 seconds off the clock and gave Morris a 51-46 lead.
“That was the first thing we talked about after the game. And after the Yorkville loss, which was eerily similar, it was big,” Blumberg said. “You’re up two, four or six with four minutes left and you’re trying to extend possessions, and against Yorkville we couldn’t get it done. We looked at that film and looked at some poor shots we took and I thought we handled that situation much better tonight.
“As a coach, when you make those improvements and you have to look at some film that’s not fun to watch and then you can turn that around, I couldn’t be happier.”
The Redskins were able to salt away the final minutes on their way to notching a 56-49 victory over the Cavaliers, who are currently unbeaten in their half of the conference (NIB 12 West). Morris would only turn the ball over six times on the night.
The Redskins are back in action in Reed-Custer on Tuesday night and then they’ll get back into conference play with a Friday night matchup at home against Sycamore.