MORRIS — In what may not have been the most aesthetically pleasing basketball game of the year, the Morris and Kaneland boys teams staged a defensive slugfest Tuesday night, and the Redskins came away with a 30-29 Interstate Eight Conference decision.
Morris (8-10, 3-4) held Kaneland without a field goal in the fourth quarter - the Knights only points in the period were four free throws - and got all seven of their points from sophomore guard Myles Johnston to rally from a 25-23 deficit at the end of three quarters.
"You can call that winning ugly," Morris coach Joe Blumberg said. "But the sign of a maturing and growing team is to be able to find a way to win when you don't play your best, and we did that tonight. A 30-29 game might not be the most exciting to watch, but a win is exciting to watch."
Kaneland's Jamari Meeks and Brett David were guarding Morris' top scorers, Colin Cummings and Jack Walker, tightlly during the second half, and the Redskins had to look elsewhere for scoring.
That's where Johnston came in.
Meeks hit a pair of free throws with 6:03 to play to put Kaneland ahead, 27-23. Johnston then took advantage of all the attention being paid to Walker and Cummings and drove to the basket for a hoop. With 5:04 to play, he drove again and was fouled, making 1 of 2 free throws to pull Morris to within 27-26. After a missed Kaneland shot, Johnston drove to the hole for another basket and put the Redskins ahead, 28-27.
Kaneland's Porter Conroy then hit a pair of free throws with 2:47 to play, giving the Knights a 29-28 lead. On Morris' ensuing possession, Johnston cut to the hoop from the wing and teammate Patrick McPherson hit him with a pass. Johnston scored with 2:15 left to make it 30-29.
That was the end of the scoring, but not the excitement.
With 1:03 remaining, Kaneland's Brett David went to the line to shoot 1 and 1, but missed the front end and Johnston grabbed the rebound. After the Redskins turned the ball over, Meeks drove to the basket, but Cummings got in front of him and took a charge with :31.2 left. Johnston was fouled with 21.5 seconds left and missed the front end of his 1 and 1, and the rebound went out of bounds, giving Kaneland the ball with 18.1 seconds remaining.
The Knights moved the ball around and Conroy got a shot off in the lane that missed. The rebound was batted back to teammate Sam Gomes, and his shot from beyond the free throw line hit the front rim and Morris' Cummings grabbed the rebound to seal the victory.
Johnston led Morris with 11 points, while Walker had eight, all in the first half, and Cummings finished with seven. Cummings and McPherson each had eight rebounds.
"Myles did a good job of cracking the shell when they were denying Jack and Colin," Blumberg said. "Patrick McPherson had some big rebounds for us. We got some good minutes off the bench, too. Evan Briones played some solid minutes and so did Sam Williams. With Branton Phelps out, and he's our spirit animal, we are going to have to have some of these guys step up like that have been.
"It might not have been the prettiest win, but it was a nice way to start a three-game homestand for us."
Morris returns to action at home Friday, hosting Ottawa, before a home game Tuesday against Newark.