After a 10 day break for the holidays, the Morton boys basketball team used the famous adage of “survive and advance” in the opening round of the Pekin Insurance Holiday Tournament.
The No. 3-seeded Potters defeated Champaign Centennial 48-41 Tuesday to advance to the second round of the tournament.
Running its offense through the big men in the post, Morton opened the game with solid tempo.
The Potters (9-1) gained a 14-10 lead through the first quarter, headlined by six points from sophomore forward Barik Olden.
“We’ve been working a lot in practice with trying to get the ball into the post so we can move our offense through the middle of the floor,” Olden said. “We want to establish the post game more than we have been.”
However, Morton struggled in the second quarter with the Chargers’ aggressive defense.
The Potters scored five points in the second frame, which allowed Champaign (2-10) to tie the game at 19 heading into halftime.
“We let (Champaign) dictate what we did on offense,” Morton coach Jarrett Brown said. “That’s not how we have played so far this season.”
Coming out of halftime, the Chargers controlled the pace of play once again.
Sophomore guard Bryson Cowper made two 3-pointers, giving Champaign a 25-19 lead early in the third frame.
After Cowper’s 3-pointers, the Potters went on a 20-5 run to close out the third quarter.
“We just needed to calm down,” Olden said. “We were forcing things and making a lot of bad passes.”
Clawing back once again, the Chargers narrowed their deficit to one point with 1:20 left in regulation at 42-41 after a Kam Reeves layup.
However, the Potters closed out the game with a 6-0 run to punch their ticket to the second round, despite 16 turnovers in the game.
Morton’s defense held the Chargers to just 29 percent shooting from the field.
“If you take away our turnovers where they had opportunities to score in transition, I thought we were pretty good defensively,” Brown said.”
Olden (13 points, 5 rebounds) and Zack Byrne (8 points, 9 rebounds) combined for 21 points and 14 rebounds in the contest.
“They controlled the glass,” Brown said. “(Olden) made some huge individual plays defensively for us. Both of them had big games.”
Potter guard Ryan Altenberger was 7-for-9 from the free throw line, totaling 13 points in the game.
Cowper led the Chargers with 17 points. Tommy Makabu added 12 points for Centennial.
“Our effort was really good, and we didn’t shoot it well,” Centennial coach Tim Lavin said. “The key to the game is that we had some late turnovers.”
With the win, Morton advances to play Moline in the second round of the Pekin Insurance Holiday Tournament at 9 a.m. Wednesday.
Moline defeated Plainfield East 63-51 in the opening game of the tournament.
“Moline will make you guard for long periods of time.” Brown said. “Everything they do is attacking the paint and they have multiple shooters.”
Despite the narrow win for the Potters, Olden believes that there are a few things they can fix before Wednesday’s matchup with the Maroons.
“A big thing that we need to make sure we are doing all the time is moving (on offense),” Olden said. “We want a better consistency in moving the ball and getting clean shots. We don’t want to force anything.”