MORRIS — Despite a fast and furious flurry in the final quarter Friday night, the Morris boys basketball team suffered a 49-39 defeat at the hands of Northern Illinois Big 12 rival Sycamore.
The Redskins, playing their final regular season game on Senior Night without leading scorer and rebounder Tyler Spiezio, trailed 30-12 after three quarters. Spiezio had surgery on an injured hand earlier in the week.
But, in the fourth, Payton Voitik led the Redskins (6-21, 2-11) to a 27-point outpouring. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough to overcome the Spartans. Voitik scored 14 of his game-high 18 points in the fourth for Morris, including four three-pointers.
"We knew it would be a struggle without Tyler," Morris coach Joe Blumberg said. "I didn't expect us to struggle as much as we did for three quarters."
In front of a nearly full gym, Morris got off to a 4-2 lead in the first four minutes with baskets from Chatten Dryfhout and Kameron Dransfeldt. The Redskins then went scoreless the rest of the quarter as Sycamore ended the period with a 10-2 lead, thanks to a buzzer-beating shot by Peyton Wiegmann.
The scoring drought continued for Morris in the second quarter, but the Redskin defense held Sycamore to just six points in the first seven minutes of the period. Voitik cut the lead to 16-7 with a three-pointer off an assist from Dransfeldt with 30 seconds to go in the first half, but Sycamore again scored at the buzzer, this time it was Grant McConkey making the shot, to take an 18-7 lead into halftime.
"We take great pride in our special teams," Blumberg said. "By that I mean our defense on inbounds plays and at the ends of quarters. For us to give up two baskets at the buzzer in the first and second quarters was frustrating."
The teams traded points early in the third quarter, as Jason Hayes (7 points) and Wiegmann (4 points) scored for Sycamore, and Jacob Overbeck (8 points) scored on a short jumper and a pair of free throws for Morris. Sycamore then finished the quarter on an 8-1 run to take a 30-12 lead into the fourth.
That was when Voitik warmed up, and so did Morris.
The senior hit a pair of three-pointers to offset triples by Sycamore's Payton Picotti and Quinten Petit and keep the Redskins within 38-19 with 4:39 to play. Morris then put on a 15-5 run to close to 43-34 with :59 left. The run started with a basket by Dransfeldt (5 points) off a feed from Voitik, and Voitik then put back his own miss. Dryfhout (7 points) then hit a pair of free throws with 1:44 left to make it 43-28. A technical foul on Sycamore's Griffin Nelson resulted in five points for Morris, as Dryfhout made one of the two free throws for the shot he was fouled on, Overbeck made the technical free throws, then scored on a putback on the resultant possession. Later, Morris' Kyle Litchfield stole an inbound pass and was fouled going to the basket and made one of two free throws to pull Morris to within 43-34.
McConkey made a free throw for Sycamore, and Voitik then banked in a three-pointer to cut the lead to 44-37 with 45 seconds left. Sycamore got two free throws each by Ethan Heinrich (11 points) and McConkey and one from Picotti in the final 42 seconds to seal the win.
"I know our guys will never give up and always battle back," Blumberg said. "But we need to start out with that urgency.
"The good thing now is that we are 0-0 entering the regional and we have a game without Tyler under our belts. Hopefully that will help us Monday."
The Redskins begin play Monday in the Class 3A Morris Regional against Sandwich.