FAIRBURY – For the second time in three years, Pontiac upset a top-seeded Morris team at a Class 3A boys basketball regional, winning 48-45 Friday at Prairie Central.
In 2012 at Kankakee, Pontiac was a 55-44 semifinal winner over the Redskins. The championship was on the line this time, and while Morris got even early in the fourth quarter and within a point of the lead in the closing seconds, Pontiac made a five-point halftime lead stand up.
“If you asked Pontiac how they would script it, they would get a lead and spread us out, and that’s exactly what happened,” Morris coach Joe Blumberg said, “and we couldn’t get over the hump.”
Pontiac (9-18) led by as many as six points in the fourth, but the Redskins clawed within 44-42 with under a minute left. When Pontiac’s Trent Smith made two free throws, Morris missed a shot, Pontiac rebounded and drew a foul with 10 seconds to go, the game appeared over.
The front end of a 1-and-1 missed, though, and Jake Walker cut the Morris deficit to one with a 3 with 3.8 seconds to go. After Neil Lambert made two more free throws for the Indians, Walker got off another 3 at the buzzer, which missed.
The lead traded hands six times during the first quarter, which Pontiac exited ahead 16-14. Its 7-for-9 shooting was enough to overcome a 5-for-7 quarter for Morris, which received a pair of 3-pointers from Austin Patterson.
After finishing the opening quarter without a rebound, the Redskins had a much less desirable statistical quirk in the second, which they completed without making a field goal. They remained within five points of the lead, however, by holding Pontiac to five second-quarter points. Morris then scored the first four and the final four points of the third quarter to draw within 29-28 entering the fourth.
Walker led Morris with 13 points and Patterson had 10, though Pontiac held Patterson to two points in the final three quarters.
“He’s a heck of player. He gets his shot off so quick,” Pontiac coach Brandon Martin said. “We were going zone early. He knocked a couple of ’em down, and we switched things up, and I thought Trent Smith did a great job on him tonight.”