The regular season games between the Morrison Eagles and Warren County Middle School Pioneers were memorable. The rubber match in the 5-6 grade boys tournament championship was an instant classic.
Morrison used a second-half surge to storm back and win 31-26 Saturday at Eastside Elementary School gym.
Morrison and Warren County were on a collision course when the tournament started Tuesday. Each team finished the season 11-1 and neither had trouble reaching the finals.
When Saturday's game began, scoring was slow. Morrison's star guard Ethan Smith finally broke the ice with a 3-pointer three minutes into the game, a shot Pioneer guard Brandon Hennessee matched seconds later. Devin Martin temporarily put the Eagles up 5-3, but Isaiah Rutledge knotted the game going into the first break.
Crockett Walker put the Pioneers in front for the first time to start the second quarter, then Smith and Hennessee swapped 3-pointers again. Walker's second basket of the period gave the Pioneers a 13-10 lead at halftime.
Morrison wasn't fazed by the deficit as the Eagles soared into the lead with a big run in third quarter. Martin started the scoring with a putback, followed by a coast-to-coast layup by Smith to give Morrison the lead. Warren County took a time-out, but it did little to slow down the Eagles. Raven Lewandowski came out of the break with back-to-back layups and a Morrison took its biggest lead, 20-13.
Walker finally stopped the streak with a layup after a frantic sequence before the third-quarter buzzer. After the teams switched possession three times in five seconds, Walker scooped and scored as the Eagle lead shrunk to five before the final period.
Walker's basket was a preview of things to come as the star forward put the Pioneers on his back. Walker weaved through the Eagle defense for two layups, drawing WCMS within one at 20-19.
Hennessee tried to put the Pioneers ahead with a layup at the 2:30 mark, but he missed the mark while taking a tumble after drawing contact with an Eagle defender. Hennessee thought he was fouled, but his displeasure was greeted with a technical foul.
Smith swished one freebie to give Morrison a two-point lead and set up a frantic finish. Smith doubled the Eagle advantage with a baseline floater with 1:57 to play, but Walker countered with a layup.
Smith came charging back up the court, ultimately finding Lewandowski for an open layup. Seconds later, Walker was bringing Warren County back within two with a layup.
Smith kept finding ways to keep the pioneers at bay as Eagle floor general used a stutter step to slide past Walker for a layup with 47.6 seconds left and give Morrison a 27-23 lead.
The back and forth between Walker and Smith continued when the Pioneer forward hit two free throws to cut the lead back to two, but Smith answered right back with two freebies of his own. With the Pioneers down by four, Benjamin Clark was fouled and hit one free throw with 21 seconds to play.
Warren County had two chances to cause turnovers in the closing seconds, but a frantic scramble at the end of the game ended when Smith found Martin wide open for a game-clinching layup.
The Eagles swarmed coach Kyle Cannon after the game, lifting him up after the win. Cannon got back on the ground and the first thing he did was give his star point guard a high five.
Smith scored a game-high 17 points, earning all-tournament honors in the process. Lewandowski added seven, followed by Martin with six and Ryland Holder with one.
Walker scored 16 points in a losing effort for the Pioneers. Hennessee chipped in seven, while Rutledge scored two and Clark had one.
Morrison's win gave the Eagles a tournament championship trophy to match their regular season award, one the team shared with Warren County.