Size Matters: Winnebago's Morrissey burns Panthers for 29 & 16 in State Semifinal

Winnebago's 6'8 Andrew Morrissey - guarded here by 6'1 Tyler Rice - was too much for the Panthers to handle, scoring 29 points and grabbing 16 rebounds in Friday's Class 2A State Semifinal in Peoria. (Doug Daniels Photos)

By Doug Daniels

1351sports.com / pinckneyvillesports.com

March 10 2018

  (Peoria, Ill.) - Pinckneyville had two solid opportunities to tie Friday's IHSA Class 2A State Semifinal in the final 16.7 seconds of the game, but came up empty on two three-point attempts and Winnebago escaped to advance into the championship game on Saturday with a 67-63 victory over the Panthers, who will play for third place against Bloomington (Central Catholic).
  Winnebago's 6'8 big man, Andrew Morrissey, torched Pinckneyville in the post, putting up 29 points and grabbing 16 rebounds against the undersized Panthers. He also made 7-of-8 free throws and added a pair of blocked shots.
  "The one thing they had was the ability to dump the ball down there and get an easy one every now and then," said PCHS head coach Bob Waggoner. "It's tough, he's probably the best post player that we've faced. I thought we battled extremely well, fought for position, doubled at times, but he was so big that he could see over it and still get us turned in there. It was a tall task."

  Both Tanner Spihlmann (6'6) and Tyler Rice (6'1) spent considerable time guarding Morrissey, and Rice in particular was dealt a challenge by being seven inches shorter than the Winnebago star.
  "This kid had a lot more skill (than Mt. Carmel's 6'7 Jackson Marcotte)," Rice said. "He could score on us whenever he wanted to. It was a pretty hard-fought battle for me, it's hard not to foul a guy that big when you're trying to fight for position."
  The Panthers led for most of the opening quarter, going up 7-4 on a J.C. Moll three with 5:45 to go in the period. Grant Jausel, who rebounded from a 4-point performance in the Super-Sectional with 14 against Winnebago, made it 16-12 on a driving bucket to beat the first horn.
  After Morrissey started the second quarter with a three-point play, back to back bucket from Jausel and Moll gave Pinckneyville their biggest lead of the evening at 20-15. The Indians quickly tied it on a three from Kenzell Jones and a basket from Morrissey, but the Panthers were able to get out in front by two possessions once again after Spihlmann's three ball with 3:32 remaining in the half at 25-21.

  That's when the momentum began to swing in Winnebago's favor. T.C. Williams and Jones each hit threes in the next minute and a half, helping the Indians close out the second quarter on an 8-2 run to lead 29-27 midway through the ball game.
  PCHS's Kyle Luke sat most of the first half with two fouls, and was saddled again early in the third when he picked up his third whistle with 6:43 to go.
  "(Luke's foul trouble) put us on our heels a little bit early," said Waggoner. "I thought (Ty Waller) did a good job of being aggressive on the drive. It kind of threw our rotation off a little bit on being able to do what we wanted to do. They were very aggressive off the bounce in the first half. There was a big foul difference in the first half comparatively, from what we had to what they had. It took our ability away to pressure the ball as much as we would have liked."
  The Panthers were able to retake the lead on Moll's three with 4:16 left in the third quarter at 36-35, but would not lead again the rest of the night. Jausel's stick-back bucket with 2:24 to go in the period made it 41-40 Indians, then Winnebago scored the next eleven points, six coming from Morrissey, included a well-defended turnaround jumper with 1:27 to go. Rice was fouled with 1.9 seconds left in the quarter and hit both free throws, cutting the Indians' lead to nine at 51-42 heading to the fourth.
  "Andrew did a great job in the post when we were able to get the ball to him," said Winnebago head coach Joe Murphy. "Every now and then we'd get away from it, we didn't stay with it long enough. We kept reminding them, get the ball into Andrew. We have a height advantage, we have to take take advantage of it, that's one thing I've learned over the years. What you have, you have to use it."

  Down, but not out, Pinckneyville would rally their way back into it. The Indians matched their biggest lead on Jones' bucket with 7:31 to play, then the Panthers scored six straight points on a driving hoop from Moll, a lay-up from Spihlmann that followed a nice save of a loose ball by Luke, and a dunk that rattled around the rim and in for Dawson Yates.
  Williams hit two free throws to slow the quickened pace momentarily, but Yates found Luke on a fast break for a layup, a foul, and a three-point play with 4:55 to go to cut it to four, then Luke scored on a put-back 40 seconds later to bring PCHS to within two at 55-53.
  With under a minute to go and Winnebago up three, Moll tied the game at 62-62 with his second triple, but Morrissey answered at the other end on a rebound and put-back with 25 seconds to go. One of two at the line for the Panthers cut it to a point, then Waller hit two charity tosses at the other end with 16.7 go play to make it 66-63 Indians, drawing Luke's fifth foul in the process.

  After that, Moll dribbled up and fired a potential game-tying three that was off the mark, then Spihlmann got a second look at a three from the corner in front of the Panthers' bench, but it couldn't find the bottom of the net either.
  "Just a very hard-fought game," Waggoner said. "I thought it was a game of runs. Their run at the end of the third quarter put us on our heels. We missed three straight shots, and they finished. I was extremely proud of our effort to get back in the basketball game. In the fourth quarter we picked up our press a little bit, got them to play a little bit faster, but the big factor they had was the big kid inside that they could get it to when they needed it."
  "We had great looks all night. I thought we did a great job of attacking, got the ball to the rim, we had some great pull-ups from the beginning to the end, but we struggled to get everything we were getting."

  After the game, Morrissey said he was surprised that he was given room to operate on the baseline, and made a point to take advantage of it.
  "The guards did a great job of getting me the ball," Morrissey said. "(Pinckneyville) kept giving me baseline, so I just kept taking it baseline and got pretty easy shots. The double was coming from the high side, so i just kept going baseline."
  Yates led four Panthers in double figures with 16 points. Jausel and Moll each had 14, Spihlmann added 11, Luke 6 and Rice 2. Devin Kitchen and Dustin Bartnicki also saw action for Pinckneyville. Jausel led PCHS in rebounds with 7, Yates led assists with 4. The Panthers were out-shot by the Indians 50% (25-of-50) to 39.7% (23-for-58) from the field and uncharacteristically made just 4-of-18 three-pointers on the night.

  While the result wasn't the desired one, Waggoner praised his players for fighting their way back into the game after facing an 11-point deficit in the fourth quarter, and assured everyone that the Panthers would bring their typical effort to Saturday's third place game.
  "These guys have great heart," Waggoner said. "When we walk out on the floor, a lot of teams just kind of look at us and think these small-town country kids are not very big, not very long. They don't know the skill set and the amount of heart that each of these guys have. It means a lot to them to play and wear that uniform. We weren't going to give in."
  "It's a tough feeling. You've dreamed of this, then it gets taken away. Let's be honest, Winnebago earned that victory. We have to hold ourselves accountable to it, but we have to turn around and respond the right way. That's growing in character, and that's more important to me than any win. I think that these young men are going to respond, they're going to come back tomorrow, and they're going to give great effort again because the town of Pinckneyville is still going to be here to support them. We're going to turn around and we're going to fight again tomorrow and we're going to have that opportunity one last time to be together."

  The Panthers (31-4) will face off with Bloomington (Central Catholic) (25-7) in Saturday's third place game at 5:30 p.m. The Saints fell 60-49 to Chicago (Orr) (29-4) in the other semifinal on Friday. Winnebago (30-2) and Chicago (Orr) will meet for the Class 2A championship at 7:15 p.m. on Saturday night.

(Photos by Doug Daniels / PinckneyvilleSports.com; Additional photos will be posted in our massive State Tournament Photo Gallery later this weekend)

Video Highlights of Friday's State Semifinal. (Doug Daniels Video)

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