By Kurt Ritzman
Assistant Sports Editor
ERIE, Ill. —
Morrison came within inches of handing Orion its first loss at the Warkins Cardinal Classic in more than five years.
Orion, which has won the past five Classics without dropping a game, led the Mustangs 55-54 with a minute to play.
Morrison (4-12) called timeout with 50 seconds left to set up what coach Dave Peugh called a special play for the end of the game.
Orion thwarted that play, but the Mustangs held on to the ball, and Kyle Meurs took a 3-pointer at the buzzer that bounced off the back of the rim and out, sealing a 55-54 win for Orion.
"From Day 1, we said we wanted to play our best basketball in February," Peugh said. "I think we're getting to that point. We started off slowly at the Sauk Valley Shootout. We've played some good games and some good teams. I think that's really helped us along the way. We're getting better every game. Maybe the wins and losses aren't quite there."
Morrison hung with Orion in the first quarter but struggled in the second, falling behind by 11 at halftime.
In the second half, though, Morrison looked as if it was the better team.
"In the second half, I thought we came out and played with some heart and intensity," Peugh said. "We were looking for some defensive stops, and we got them. That's what got us back in the game."
Orion (10-5) scored 38 points in the first half, 20 in the second quarter, but Morrison held the Chargers to 17 points in the second half.
"We changed defenses and matched up with their shooters a little better," Peugh said. "Overall, we had a little more energy and a little more hop in our step. We were right there."
Sophomore Hunter Hamstra helped lead the way back for the Mustangs. He nailed a jumper to cut the deficit to nine with 2:20 left in the third quarter. Then, sandwiched between fast-break layups by Matt Wilkens, Hamstra — from the high post — passed to a wide open Will Greul in the low post for a layup.
Hamstra replicated his assist to Greul on the first possession of the fourth quarter to cut Morrison's deficit to three points.
"I've been coaching for close to 30 years, and he's one of the hardest working kids I've ever been around," Peugh said of Hamstra. "He's so coachable. He's like a sponge; he soaks up everything. He gives us a lift off the bench. He's just going to get better and better."
The Mustangs scored on eight consecutive possessions, and 10 of 11, over the end of the third quarter and beginning of the fourth.
Orion pushed its lead to 52-46 with 4:40 to play, but the Mustangs weren't out of it.
Wilkens drilled a 3-pointer, Hamstra converted a three-point play and Meurs made a layup for an 8-0 run and a 54-52 Morrison lead.
But Orion's Adam Killion made a 3-pointer to give the Chargers the lead and set up the end-of-game excitement.
ORION 55, MORRISON 54
ORION (10-5) — Clay Vanderheiden 4-6 1-1 9, Adam Killion 2-5 0-0 5, Dylan Schultz 7-16 0-0 17, Dakota Grant 0-2 0-0 0, Jake Schulenberg 0-1 1-2 1, Jason Marshall 3-8 0-0 6, Austin Anderson 2-3 1-3 5, Drew Amador 1-1 0-0 2, Kayman Martens 3-3 0-2 8. Totals 23-47 3-8 55.
MORRISON (4-12) — Brock Deter 0-2 0-0 0, Alexander Volckmann 2-5 0-0 6, Alex Weeks 0-0 0-0 0, Matt Wilkens 6-8 0-0 16, Kyle Meurs 3-7 1-1 7, Will Greul 5-9 1-4 11, Connor Duncan 0-0 0-0 0, Hunter Hamstra 6-7 2-3 14. Totals 22-38 4-8 54.
Orion 18 20 7 10 — 55
Morrison 16 11 13 14 — 54
3-point goals — Orion 6-18 (Schultz 3-8, Martens 2-2, Killion 1-3, Marshall 0-5); Morrison 6-10 (Wilkens 4-5, Volckmann 2-3, Deter 0-1, Meurs 0-1). Total fouls — Orion 10; Morrison 7. Fouled out — none. Rebounds — Orion 26 (Killion 6); Morrison 23 (Volckmann 5, Hamstra 5).