The Morrison Eagles were down two points, 39-37, with 4.9 seconds to play in the James C. Haile state tournament championship game Saturday in Murfreesboro.
Morrison inbounded the ball and it was passed to the sharp-shooting Irving Espinoza in the corner and he hoisted a final shot. Espinoza’s shot was altered and Morrison did not get the whistle from the officials which would have put Espinoza on the free-throw line for three shots.
Morrison was out of time as the clock expired on the final possession and the Westside Eagles would hold on for the win 39-37. Morrison’s run to state supremacy fell short by just one game.
The third quarter was owned by Westside as their Eagles came out of the locker room on a mission. They were able to take Espinoza out of the game and that left it up to Ethan Smith and Ronaldo Martinez for Morrison’s offense.
Brandon Miles carried his team through the third by connecting on his only 3-pointer of the game and shooting 4-of-4 from the free-throw line.
Westside would get its largest lead of the game in the fourth quarter with the score 34-27. Morrison, which usually has dependable ball control, was having trouble finding a handle in the second half. In the fourth quarter, the Morrison defense had a couple of critical stops and forced Westside to call timeout.
Smith would drive the lane and he was hit hard, but there was no whistle. The ball went to Westside and Westside would call for timeout. Out of the timeout Westside could not get open thus forcing another timeout by Westside. Morrison was stepping up its defense.
With 1:22 to play, Westside threw it away. Espinoza ran the floor with the steal and he was hit on the way up and the shot dropped.
He would then miss the free throw and Morrison rebounded and would miss the putback.
Morrison would be forced to start fouling with 36.2 to play. Westside’s Brandon Miles would hit both and Westside was up 39-34. Westside was up five and Morrison knew they needed a 3-point shot and Joey Garcia would give it to them. The score was 39-37 with :07 to play.
Westside was fouled and the Eagles called for timeout. Marcus Gannon for Westside, who had been near perfect, would miss and Morrison runs the ball up the floor and Westside is called for blocking. Morrison would have 4.9 seconds to attempt a shot and they would inbound to Smith who found an open Espinoza who had his shot altered as the buzzer sounded.
Espinoza scored a game-high 20 points to lead all scorers.
In the first half each team was showing their skills by hitting from out past the 3-point line. Both teams combined for a total of eight three-pointers in the first half, with five of the eight belonging to Espinoza.
Espinoza did not get any help in the second quarter scoring all nine of Morrison’s points thus allowing Westside to claim the lead heading into halftime. And the third quarter belonged to Westside by keeping the ball away from Espinoza.
It took all four quarters and came down to the last possession to decide which Eagles team would fly away victorious.
Morrison coach Kyle Cannon said, “I am so proud of this team for putting in all the hard work this year and making it so far in the state tournament.
"This group of young men play so well together and I can’t say enough about their work ethic. We appreciate all of the community support and enjoyed the atmosphere they brought to each game.”
Morrison Eagles making the state all-tournament team were Irving Espinoza and Ethan Smith.
Morrison will be back in action in the Warren County postseason tournament scheduled to start Feb. 5 and will be held at Charlie Dalton Gym in McMinnville.
MORRISON EAGLE SCORING – Irving Espinoza 20, Ethan Smith 8, Ronaldo Martinez 6, Joey Garcia 3
WESTSIDE EAGLES SCORING – Brandon Miles 18, Marcus Gannon 10, Charlie Parrish 7, Matt Calamia 2, Gus Davenport 2