MORRISON – The Mustangs succesfully fought off a strong Clipper comeback, and picked up a Three Rivers North victory 50-44 Friday night.
Morrison (6-10, 2-0) had a clear advantage in the height department, and used it to its advantage in the first quarter. The Mustangs jumped out to a 16-7 lead after the first quarter. The Mustangs' post players combined to score 10 of those 16 points, led by six points from junior forward Hunter Hamstra.
A 3 from sophomore Joey Brackemyer to start the second quarter gave the Mustangs their largest lead of the game at 12 points.
"Well, we were patient the first quarter," Morrison coach Dave Peugh said, "and we were passing and moving the ball around pretty good. Then we kind of got back on our heels a little bit. We started throwing the ball away and became complacent, and we let them slide back in the game a little bit."
Rather than roll over, Amboy (2-11, 0-2) showed fight. A steal by senior Skylar Wheeler sparked the Clippers' comeback.
Morrison also started to battle foul trouble. This opened things up for the Clippers, and Wheeler once again came up big for Amboy, as he hit a pair of 3s down the stretch. His second 3-pointer came with a minute left before halftime, and cut the Morrison lead to 24-21.
"We created some turnovers and got out in transition to get some easy layups," Amboy coach Luke Payne said. "Skylar hit a couple of clutch 3s to really help narrow the gap. That's really all it was. We started hustling and becoming more aggressive. That's really what created the push in the second quarter."
Unfortunately for the Clippers, Brackemyer utilized his athleticism and finished a tough up-and-under layup with seconds remaining to give the Mustangs a 26-21 lead heading into the locker room.
Led by Liam Ohlendorf, the Clippers came out sailing after half. The Amboy senior made three straight jump shots to start, and finished with 12 points.
"He did a really good job for us," said Payne. "That is something he is capable of doing night in and night out. Sometimes he gets a little too passive, but he really helped us tonight. Damon [Quest] had an off night, and Liam stepped up, especially in that third, and knocked down some buckets."
A balanced Morrison offense fended off and answered the Clippers' hope for a comeback, but still couldn't pull away.
A basket by Morrison senior Hunter Hamstra broke a tie at 30 with about a minute left in the third, and foreshadowed what was to come in the fourth.
The Mustangs took a 34-31 lead heading into the final quarter, after Brackemeyer once again hit a tough layup in the waning moments of the third quarter.
Hamstra then decided it was his game to take for the Mustangs. After a minute-and-a-half of turnovers and missed shots, the junior finally broke the scoring drought.
"As a captain, I felt like I needed to do something to motivate my teammates and help them play at their best ability," Hamstra said. "Anything to help them succeed in any way they can, and I did what I could to help my team."
Hamstra got the ball down low and made a strong move to the hoop, drawing contact in the process.
The ball fell through for the Mustangs, and Hamstra completed the three-point play. The junior then got loose once again in the Amboy zone to make another shot in the lane to give the Mustangs some breathing room with a 41-33 lead.
"I think that I talked to the guys," Hamstra said, "and let them know we needed to work it into the post, because we have a huge height advantage on most of the teams in the area, including Amboy. That really helped us score some easy buckets and and-ones to really turn the game around for us."
After a jumper from the elbow by Morrison junior Scott Ferry fell, Amboy junior Logan Thake answered with a 3-pointer from the corner. This was then answered by a basket by Brackemyer.
A 3 by Quest fell, giving Amboy life as it trailed by only six with 1:30 left to play.
A basket by Hamstra set up the dagger for Morrison, as junior Tristan Houzenga put the game on ice by hitting a pair of free throws, giving his team a 49-39 lead with under a minute to play.
"We just told them to get out on the shooters," Peugh said. "We went a little man-to-man to try and throw them off their rhythm a little bit. Then we went back to our zone, and that put them away.
"We've got a long ways to go. We still haven't had our full team on the floor yet at one time. We're getting some valuable minutes out of some guys that wouldn't be playing. That's a good thing to make our bench a little stronger."