The three-pointer that Morris' Jake Walker swished to end the first
half Saturday night seemed harmless.
After all, the Redskins still trailed Burlington Central 33-18 at the break in the second semifinal at the Plano Christmas Classic.
But something flipped the switch, for both sides. Morris outscored the Rockets 27-2 in a 13-minute stretch and 34-12 in the second half to prevail 52-45 and earn a berth in Monday night's championship game at 8:30 against Ottawa.
"It might have put a spark into us, but it was a team effort all the way," Walker said of his buzzer beater. "For whatever reason, we were flat the first half, like we weren't ready to play.
"We had a team meeting at halftime, and it showed in the second half. We picked up the pressure."
The Redskins (8-1) had no luck solving Central's 1-3-1 defense in the first half, and the Rockets (9-3) struggled similarly against Morris' man-to-man in the second half.
"We stopped playing defense in the second half," Central coach Brett Porto said. "We let our offensive frustrations go to a lack of effort on the defensive end."
Morris coach Joe Blumberg said Walker's buzzer beater probably did not
have an effect.
"Because at the time we were playing so poorly. Mathematically, it wound up helping, but we were so dejected and frustrated at the time that I don't think it gave us any extra pep," said Blumberg.
Sam Allen, Morris' 5-foot-8 senior guard, helped turn the tide in the second half with his defense against Central's Brett Rau. Three-point specialist Austin Patterson scored 14 of his 17 points in the second half and Walker scored 18, including four straight free throws in the final minute.
Central committed 10 second-half turnovers to Morris' one.
"We're usually a man-to-man team, and we definitely played better from
the man-to-man in the second half," Walker said. "This is our biggest win so far. It feels great to be in the championship game."
"I almost wish we were playing tomorrow (Sunday night)," Blumberg said. "We may be a little gassed, but I hope the day off doesn't take any steam out of us."
Reed Hunnicutt led Central with 16 points and 6-9 center Duncan Ozburn
had 12 points and nine rebounds.
"We're disappointed," Porto said. "Until now, our seniors have done a
good job closing out games. It didn't happen tonight."