HERSCHER — It started with a 17-point first quarter deficit, then ended with sophomore guard Austin Patterson hitting a game-winning three-point field goal. That marked both the low and high water marks of the regional semifinal game for Morris as it completed a stunning comeback to beat Prairie Central 50-47 on Wednesday night.
Working from finish to start, Patterson hit the game winning trey at the top of the key off of an in-bounds pass from Even Bjelland in front of the scorer's table with two seconds left.
"Everyone in the stack went to their spot and the ball just floated to me," Patterson. "All I had to do was shoot the ball and hope for the best. It felt good. At first the shot looked like it was left a bit, but it ended up going in."
Two seconds prior, Prairie Central had the ball on an inbound play, only to watch Bjelland steal the ball immediately.
"There was no way we were going to give in at that point," Bjelland said. "The guy started dribbling the ball, I saw the opportunity and grabbed it."
Central had come out of the huddle on that play but before the ball was inbound, Morris coach Joe Blumberg called timeout to switch from a man-to-man defense to a 1-3-1 zone.
"We came out and gave them the perception of man ... we put it on the seniors and they called for the 1-3-1," Blumberg said.
Eight seconds before that, Central had a 47-46 lead — that is before Morris' Ned Kneller sank 1-of-2 free throws to tie the game at 47.
It was just the fourth free throw of the year by Kneller.
"It was a pressure shot," Blumberg said.
On the other end of the emotional spectrum for the Redskins was a rocky start.
Morris had to rally from a 20-3 deficit and it all started when Bjelland hit a three-pointer in the last seconds of the first quarter.
"It gave us a lot of momentum, that and our defense," Morris senior Ben Ortiz said of the trey. "It gave us a spark."
The second quarter wasn't a complete turnaround but it did get the Redskins back into the game. Central was just 1-for-9 from the field in that stanza and Morris had the lead down to 23-18 by intermission.
"That gave us buzzer momentum," Blumberg said of Bjelland's shot. "We took that right into the second quarter. The guys kept battling."
For the game, Jake Hogan and Bjelland each led Morris with 11 points and Ben Ortiz added 10.
Morris will now face Coal City for the regional championship on Friday night at 7:30 back in Herscher. It will mark the third time this season the two teams will have met with the Redskins winning both contests before the new year.