MORRIS – Caston Norris could be characterized as somewhat understated and maybe even underrated considering the scoring talent the Morris boys basketball team possesses in front of him.
But Norris stole the show down the stretch Tuesday evening during crunch time against Interstate 8 Conference foe La Salle-Peru.
The junior guard scored five of his 10 points on the night during the last 52 seconds of overtime with a huge 3-pointer and a nifty drive down the baseline for the game-winning bucket with 29 seconds to go that ultimately gave Morris a scintillating 70-69 victory over La Salle-Peru.
“With the 3, I was open, so I kind of chucked it up, and it went in. And then the drive to the hole, I jabbed left, my defender jumped, and I just took it all the way to the hoop,” Norris said. “It wasn’t just me, I just happened to be able to make a couple of shots that helped us in the end when it mattered most.
“We came together when we needed to tonight.”
Morris (9-19, 5-7 I-8) also received a team-best 25 points from Gage Phillips, including five 3s. Jack Wheeler added 17 points, while Brett Bounds tossed in 13 as the hosts shot well from the field (23 of 47, 49%) and a red-hot 12 of 27 (44%) beyond the arc.
L-P (16-12, 5-7) saw a pair of tremendous performances, from Josh Senica – who recorded game-high totals of 31 points and 12 rebounds – and teammate London Cabrera with 28 points including seven 3-pointers.
But it wasn’t enough to hold off Norris and company.
“[Norris] quietly goes about his business, distributes the ball … and certainly that 3 in overtime and the drive to the basket in the end was darn special,” Morris coach Joe Blumberg said. “We held off a very good L-P team tonight with Senica and Cabrera just performing so well.
“I’m so proud of our guys for finding a way to win during a very exciting basketball game.”
The Cavaliers led 11-7 after one quarter and 23-20 at the half, as Cabrera had 11 points at the break while Phillips notched 12.
“We came out pretty strong in the first half, and they were on fire in the second half,” L-P coach Jim Cherveny said. “It was a fun game to be part of, but unfortunately there were just too many battles to fight tonight, especially in the second half where we didn’t get very many breaks.
“But give Morris credit for taking a very hard-fought game down the stretch.”
Morris outscored L-P 21-17 in the third period to take a 41-40 lead into the fourth quarter. Senica went wild in the low post after that, scoring 11 points and, along with three 3-pointers from Cabrera, giving the Cavs a 60-57 lead with 1:35 left in regulation.
But Phillips stepped up with a right-baseline 3-pointer 10 seconds later that sent the game into overtime.
“That was a huge shot, and I knew I had to make it,” Phillips said. “Coach called a great game, and when I had the ball in my hands I knew I had to make a big one. Fortunately we were able to send the game into overtime.”
In the extra session, Senica opened with a right-wing 3 at 3:30 to put L-P up 63-60. Bounds then followed with a top-of-the-key 3 at 2:50 to tie the score at 63-63.
Cabrera added his last pair of 3s before Norris took command with under a minute to play as Morris sweated out the big win.
“It was a huge night for me and our team,” Norris said. “I’m so proud I could be a big part of an amazing victory.”