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Boys basketball: Morris hangs tough in early sectional semifinal loss to Hillcrest

PLANO — The Morris boys basketball team knew that nearly everything was going to have to break its way Wednesday night if the Redskins were going to pull off the upset in the Class 3A Plano Sectional semifinals against Hillcrest, the sectional’s top-seeded team.

And, for a little while, a lot of things did go Morris’ way, enough so that the game was tied at 17 midway through the second quarter after leading scorer Matt Shaw scored his first basket of the game on a 3-pointer.

After that, though, it was all Hillcrest, as the Hawks outscored the Redskins, 16-4, in the remaining 5:28 of the first half to take a 33-21 lead at halftime en route to a 73-42 final that was nowhere near indicative of the effort put forth by a scrappy Morris team.

“I am definitely proud of our effort,” Morris coach Joe Blumberg said. “We knew we were going to have to shoot very well and rebound well if we were going to win tonight. I don’t know if we did either one of those things well enough tonight, but I do know we didn’t lose tonight due to lack of effort.”

Throughout the game, Hillcrest made a living at the free-throw line, as the Hawks finished 23 of 32 from the charity stripe, including 12 of 14 in the first half. By contrast, Morris made 2 of 2 free throws in the first half and finished 6 of 7.

Hillcrest jumped out to a 9-2 lead early, but Morris got eight points from JaQuan Boxley to pull to within 11-10 with 2:39 to play in the first quarter. Boxley finished with 11 points. Hillcrest scored the final four points of the first quarter to take a 15-10 lead at the break.

Morris’ Tyler Spiezio scored the first four points of the second quarter to pull the Redskins to within 15-14. Hillcrest’s Robert Harvey responded with a steal and a layup, but Shaw’s first 3-pointer of the game tied it with 5:28 to go until intermission. From there, the Hawks tightened up their defense and forced Morris into six turnovers en route to building the halftime lead.

“If we could have stayed within six points or so at halftime, it might have been a little different,” Blumberg said. “Ending the first half the way they did took a little wind out of our sails after we worked so hard to tie it.

“They are very quick and they had a very aggressive mentality when it came to getting to the basket. They got to the line a lot and, to their credit, they knocked down their free throws.”

Shaw finished with a team-leading 17 points for Morris and scored nine in the third quarter. Hillcrest’s Marcus Garrett was the game’s leading scorer with 25 points, and he went 11 of 14 from the free-throw line. Backcourt mate Jalen Hughes finished with 16 points.

“Things kind of snowballed on us in the second half,” Blumberg said. “[Point guard] Delaney Stutzki got in foul trouble and that made it tougher on us handling their pressure, although I felt Payton Voitik and Kameron Dransfeldt did a nice job off the bench.

“Hopefully, for the guys returning next year, when they go half-speed in a drill in practice, maybe they will ask themselves if that’s quick enough to get it done against a team like Hillcrest. We’ve seen what that speed is like, and these are the teams we are going to beat if we want to take that next step and win a sectional game.”

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