PLANO, Ill.— Having played Winnebago earlier in the season, Morrison had a primary concern entering Tuesday’s boys basketball rematch in the semifinals of the Illinois Class 2A Plano Sectional. The Mustangs wanted to avoid falling behind the way they did in the championship game of the Forreston Holiday Tournament in December.

That fear came true, though, in a 57-45 loss that ended their season and sent the Indians into Friday’s final against the winner of tonight’s semifinal between Elgin St. Edward and Rockford Lutheran.

Winnebago (29-0), the second-ranked 2A team in the Illinois Associated Press rankings, used a 12-0 run to build a double-digit first-half lead, then scored eight points in a row in the third quarter after Morrison (25-8) pulled within two points.

“Those big runs hurt us both times,” said 6-foot-3 senior Jason Smith, who closed out his stellar career for Morrison with a game-high 18 points.

“That’s one thing we didn’t want — to dig a hole like the first time,” said 6-2 junior Travis McBride, who finished with 11 points and 15 rebounds.

“At Forreston it was the same thing,” Morrison coach Dale Trott said. “We got down by 10 points.

Before that happened, though, Morrison enjoyed a pair of leads. Senior Zach Stralow scored on the game’s first possession, and Smith made it 4-2 with a driving layup. Winnebago’s run started after McBride followed his own miss from 15 feet and scored on a putback — one of his nine rebounds in the opening period.

Jake Doty, one of two 6-foot-7 starters for Winnebago, gave the Indians the lead for good when he scored from the low block with 2:04 left. Chas Cross, the other 6-7 starter, followed with a 3-pointer, then Doty scored from 15 feet on a pass from Cross inside as Winnebago led 14-7 after one quarter. A basket by Cross and the first of back-to-back 3-pointers by junior Jeff Sartorius extended the lead to 19-7 before McBride ended the run with a pair of free throws when he was fouled on a putback attempt with 5:46 left in the half.

“We knew it would be a game of runs,” said Cross, a junior who led Winnebago with 13 points and eight rebounds. “We kind of got lucky and had that first big run, and they were playing catch-up the rest of the way.

“Morrison plays such good help-side defense. We had drives and then kicked it out to the shooters.”

Morrison missed five shots and committed five turnovers during its scoreless stretch.

“We definitely came out slow, which we didn’t want to do,” Smith said. “We dug a hole and tried to battle back.”

Getting five points from Smith and four from McBride, Morrison cut the gap to 24-20 late in the half, but Mike Mann scored from the free-throw circle with 9 seconds left to give Winnebago a 26-20 halftime lead.

“At halftime we were down six and felt if we came out and played well we were still in the game,” Smith said.

The Mustangs couldn’t have asked for a much better start to the half, either.

Morrison opened the second half with baskets from McBride and Smith — both set up by passes from Devin Mouw — to pull within 26-24, but Winnebago then went on its 8-0 run. Cross scored inside to make it 28-24 with 5:05 left in the quarter. While Winnebago added to its lead, Morrison struggled on offense. The Mustangs had a turnover, followed by missed shots by Smith, Ethan Goodenough, Mouw, McBride, Patrick Wagenecht and Goodenough on its next six possessions.

“We were getting good looks,” Smith said. “Things just didn’t go our way.”

The Indians countered with a free throw from Brad Reinke, one of three juniors in the starting lineup, and a rebound follow shot by Cross before Sartorius delivered a crushing 3-point basket to give the Indians a 34-24 lead with 2:04 remaining in the quarter. Morrison double-teamed Mike Mann on the left side, but he found Sartorius wide open on the right wing, and Satorius drained the trey.

Winnebago got another key play moments later. Stralow had cut the lead to 34-26, and Morrison was on a 2-on-1 break after a steal, but Russell Fiori made a leaping interception as he got back on defense to prevent Morrison from scoring.

“We had two or three plays with a man advantage but didn’t finish,” Trott said.

Stralow scored on a drive with a second left to cut the deficit to 38-34 at the end of three quarters, but the Mustangs never got closer than that the rest of the way. Again, they couldn’t make a key shot — missing their first four attempts of the fourth quarter — while Winnebago opened the period with a driving baskets by Cross and Reinke and a rebound follow basket by Thomas to go up 40-28 with 5:42 remaining.

“Winnebago kept its composure,” Trott said. “We didn’t shoot the ball as well as we would have liked. Sometimes if you play really good offense it helps your defense.”

Despite seeing their season end, Smith and McBride were proud of the Mustangs’ accomplishments during the year.

“All of us are very happy with how far we made it,” said Smith, who also advanced in the 3-Point Showdown, along with Cody Behrens of Sterling Newman, J.C. McNinch of Rock Falls and Michael Schneiderman of Forreston. “We set a school record for wins. We wanted to go farther, though.”

McBride said: “We played great as a team (this season) up and down the lineup. We’ll always remember this great group.”

Score by quarters

Winnebago 14 12 8 23 — 57

Morrison 7 13 8 17 — 45

WINNEBAGO (29-0) — Chuck Misuraca 0-3 3-4 3, Russell Fiori 3-5 4-4 11, Mike Mann 3-6 0-0 6, Seth Gustafson 0-1 0-0 0, Jeff Sartorius 3-5 0-0 9, Brad Reinke 3-7 3-4 9, Jake Doty 2-4 0-0 4, Chas Cross 6-12 0-2 13, A.J. Thomas 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 21-45 10-14 57.

MORRISON (25-8) — Devin Mouw 1-7 0-1 2, Trevan Burn 0-0 0-0 0, Patrick Wagenecht 0-2 0-0 0, Jason Smith 7-15 4-6 18, Sean Smith 0-0 0-0 0, Travis McBride 4-11 3-4 11, Ethan Goodenough 2-4 0-0 4, Andrew Cook 0-0 0-0 0, Zach Stralow 3-5 2-2 8, Dustin Belt 1-4 0-0 2. Totals 18-58 9-13 45.

3-point goals — Winnebago 5-16 (Sartorius 3-5, Fiori 1-2, Cross 1-3, Gustafson 0-1, Mann 0-1, Misuraca 0-2, Reinke 0-2); Morrison 0-4 (J. Smith 0-2, Goodenough 0-2). Total fouls — Winnebago15; Morrison 18. Fouled out — Stralow. Rebounds — Winnebago 33 (Cross 8); Morrison 39 (McBride 15). Assists — Winnebago 15 (Thomas 4, Misuraca 3); Morrison 8 (Mouw 3). Steals — Winnebago 7 (Thomas 2); Morrison 10 (McBride 4, Goodenough 3). Blocked shots — Winnebago 3 (Cross 2); Morrison 2 (J. Smith, Belt). Turnovers — Winnebago 16; Morrison 17.

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