MORRIS — On the one hand, you had the Morris boys basketball team holding Northern Illinois Big XII Conference rival Yorkville to less than 20 points in the first half. That's an impressive feat, usually cause for celebration.
On the other hand, the Redskins couldn't get too excited, because they trailed Yorkville by 10 at halftime, 18-8, as the Foxes' defense outdid Morris in the stingy department.
Both teams were able to score just a bit better in the second half, but Yorkville was able to maintain its lead and capture a 41-30 win.
"In both of our games against Yorkville, we really had to struggle to get our shots," Morris coach Joe Blumberg said. "Credit the defense they play. We were working hard to free [leading scorer] Matt [Shaw] up, but they always seemed to have another hand up or somebody else helping."
With the Yorkville defense – in particular Jake Eberhart – following Shaw all over the court and clinging to him like a bad smell, the Redskins (12-15, 2-10) were unable to generate much on the offensive end. JaQuan Boxley led Morris with eight points, while Nathaiel Halcomb had six and Shaw and Delaney Stutzki each had five. Josh Lain scored four points and Tyler Spiezio added two.
Yorkville got off to a 3-0 lead on a 3-pointer by Logan Habada on the game's opening possession. Habada finished with a game-high 21 points. Javell Moore added 11 points for the Foxes.
"We made a couple of runs at them in the second half where were cut the lead to six," Blumberg said. "But each time, they were able to hit a big shot. Habada hit a three on us and Moore had a couple of drives to the basket that killed us."
After Habada's game-opening three, Morris got a free throw by Boxley and a putback basket by Halcomb to tie it at 3 before the Foxes scored the final seven points of the quarter to take a 10-3 lead. Shaw's lone basket of the game, a 3-pointer, with 5:32 to play until halftime pulled Morris within 10-6, but the Redskins never got any closer. Lain scored the last basket of the first half to make it 18-8 at halftime.
Morris got to within 24-18 late in the third quarter when Spiezio scored off an assist from Halcomb, but Habada made a 3-pointer with a minute left to make it 27-18. Stutzki answered with a three of his own to make it 27-21 entering the fourth.
Yorkville got a bucket from Moore to start the fourth quarter before Habada got a steal and layup to put the Foxes ahead, 31-21. Morris countered with a pair of free throws by Stutzki and a basket by Halcomb before Moore and Boxley traded putback baskets for a 33-27 Yorkville lead. Moore then drove the lane for a basket, sparking a 5-0 Yorkville spurt that made it 38-27 with less than a minute left. Boxley hit a 3-pointer to get Morris to within 38-30, but Habada made 3 of 4 free throws to ice it.
"We tried to increase the pace of the game in the second half with our pressure, but the game got away from us in the first half," Blumberg said. "Games with us and Yorkville tend to get chippy, and this time we lost our composure a little bit, especially in the first half. We needed to focus that energy on the next play instead of trash talking or throwing elbows. It takes maturity to bottle that emotion and put it toward the game, and we lacked that a little bit tonight."