OTTAWA — For most of the game Thursday night, there wasn't much that the Morris girls basketball team did wrong.
The Redskins were nearly flawless in the first half, playing tenacious defense and using that defense to create easy transition baskets. That led to Morris owning a 34-20 halftime lead over LaSalle-Peru in the semifinals of the Silver Bracket at the Ottawa Lady Pirate Classic.
The third quarter saw the Cavaliers chip away a bit at the Morris lead, but the Redskins (9-5) remained comfortably ahead, 44-37, heading into the fourth quarter.
Suddenly, the tides turned and it was Morris that was on its heels in the fourth quarter. Even though they held the lead, they became impatient in their offense and began putting up some ill-advised shots. When the shots didn't fall, LaSalle-Peru was there to collect the rebounds and use a strong fast break to get easy looks at the other end.
The lead kept shrinking, from 48-37 early in the fourth quarter, to 51-50 with just over 2:00 to play. Mya Shannon then scored in the lane for two of her game-high 24 points to give Morris a 53-50 lead with 1:22 to play, but LaSalle-Peru sophomore Kamryn Olson hit a three-pointer to tie it at 53 with 1:07 left. Neither team scored in the final 1:07 and the game went into overtime.
Shannon gave Morris an early lead in the extra session, but L-P's Gena Fassino hit a three-pointer with :52.5 left to give the Cavaliers their first lead since they scored the first basket of the game, 56-55. Shannon responded by hitting another shot in the lane with :25 left and went 1 of 2 from the free-throw line with :09 remaining to boost Morris to a 58-56 win.
"Two years ago here, we had the same type of game with L-P," Morris coach Kate Carey said. "We had a big lead at halftime and they came back and beat us. We knew they wouldn't let up, which they didn't. When we went cold from the field, they made their shots.
"We have to do a better job with our shot selection when we are trying to close out a game."
There was nothing wrong with the Redskins' shot selection in the early going, though. The 1-3-1 trap defense they employed forced LaSalle-Peru into 10 turnovers in the first quarter and Morris was able to use transition baskets to build a 15-7 lead at the end of the initial eight minutes. The lead grew to 34-20 at halftime as Shannon had 11 points and Meghan Smith 10. Smith finished with 15 points and six rebounds.
"We like to play that defense," Smith said. "We are able to make teams make mistakes and then we get easy shots. It got closer than we wanted it to at the end, but it was nice to get a win in a game like this."
Shannon scored 11 of her points in the fourth quarter and overtime, including all five of Morris' points in the extra session. With Paige Valentine running the point most of the time, Shannon has been freed up to play on the wing and use her scoring talents more than in past seasons.
"This is what one of our stronger games looks like," Carey said. "And, with some of the injuries we have had recently, we are basically doing it with six players. Paige has really stepped up and done a good job of handling the point, and that gives us Mya on one side of the floor and Meghan on the other to score. We can even post Mya up on other guards because they can't handle her underneath.
"We've had some close games this year and we are used to grinding it out. To get a win is huge, especially in this tournament where we haven't had a lot of wins lately."
Morris 49, Rockford East 45: Morris completed tournament play by taking the title game in the Silver Bracket and finishing fifth overall in the 12-team tourney. Shannon, who was named to the all-tournament team, led Morris (10-5) with 24 points, while Smith scored nine and Ashley Hood added eight. Meghan Jurak scored six points and Valentine chipped in with two.