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Morris falls in heartbreaker

Published: Friday, March 7, 2014 9:41 p.m. CST
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(Craig Lincoln for Shaw Media.)
Morris senior forward Tanner Sampson goes for the opening jump ball against Pontiac during the first half of the Class 3A Prairie Central Regional championship game Friday in Fairbury.
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(Craig Lincoln for Shaw Media)
Morris senior forward Brock Kukman battles for a rebound against Pontiac during the first half of the Class 3A Prairie Central Regional championship game Friday in Fairbury.
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(Craig Lincoln for Shaw Media)
Morris senior center Ned David Kneller goes inside for two against Pontiac during the first half of the Class3A Prairie Central Regional championship game in Friday in Fairbury.
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(Craig Lincoln for Shaw Media)
Morris senior forward Tanner Sampson goes up for two against Pontiac during the first half of the Class 3A Regional championship game Friday in Fairbury.
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(Craig Lincoln for Shaw Media)
Morris coach Joe Blumberg huddles during a timeout against Pontiac in the first half of the Class 3A Prairie Central Regional championship game Friday in Fairbury.
Caption
(Craig Lincoln for Shaw Media)
Morris senior guard Sam Allen puts a bounce-pass under a Pontiac defender to Morris senior center Ned David Kneller during the first half of the Class 3A Prairie Central Regional championship Friday game in Fairbury.

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.”

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