Northern High's soft-spoken point guard, David Morris, wants to run the Patriots' boys basketball team. He just doesn't want to grab the spotlight while doing it. But if his team gets in a hole, he will.
Morris, a 5-foot-7 junior, has taken six three-pointers in three games this season. He has made four, none bigger than the long-range basket he sank Tuesday night to spark Northern to a 48-44 victory over host St. Mary's Ryken.
Morris's three-pointer gave the Patriots, who had trailed the Knights nearly the entire game, a two-point lead with 3 minutes 5 seconds to play. The Patriots (2-1) did not relinquish the lead afterward.
"I feel comfortable shooting the three, but I only like to do it when I have to," said Morris, who starts alongside four seniors and finished with a game-high 17 points. "If it's necessary, I will take the shot, but that's not my role on the team. I'm a passer. We have a good three-point shooter already in Chad Hall."
Hall (10 points) made two of his three three-point attempts, but it was Morris who sank one at the crucial moment.
Trailing the Knights (1-2) by as many as eight points in the third quarter, Northern began to chip away at the lead by relying on its strength: defense. Both teams used a match-up zone for much of the game, slowing the tempo, but Northern switched to a man-to-man defense at times in the second half, pressing and creating turnovers.
It worked. Ryken committed four straight turnovers in the closing minutes of the third quarter, the last of which Albert Rice converted into a layup to cut the Knights' lead to 30-28.
After the teams exchanged several baskets, Rice made another driving layup to give Northern its first lead, 41-40, with 3:46 remaining. Two successful free throws by Ryken senior Joe Saunders put the Knights back up by one, but Morris made the key three-pointer on the Patriots' next possession.
"We let up for one minute there late in the fourth quarter, and they turned it around quickly," Ryken Coach J.P. Jones said. "We just didn't execute there at the end. We were getting everything we wanted, we just weren't making the shots."
Morris made four of six free throws down the stretch as Northern, which made 15 of 19 free throws in the game, pulled away. Morris scored nine points in the fourth quarter.
Saunders paced Ryken with 16 points and made five of six free throws in the final quarter. Knights sharpshooter Chad Maloney, who committed his third foul midway through the second quarter and eventually fouled out, was held to six points.
"David [Morris] really played super tonight," Northern Coach Rick Weber said. "His first job is to get the offense going, and he did that, but, boy, was that a big three-pointer there in the corner. But I tell you, it was defense that really turned it on late. That's the kind of play that puts me in a very good mood."
Northern (2-1)--Rice 4 1-2 9, C. Hall 2 4-5 10, K. Hall 3 2-2 8, Morris 4 8-10 17, L. Hall 2 0-0 4. Total 15 15-19 48.
St. Mary's Ryken (1-2)--Wills 1 1-2 3, Maloney 2 1-1 5, Hall 2 0-1 6, Saunders 5 5-7 16, Lewis 4 0-1 8, Hayden 2 2-2 6. Totals 16 9-14 44.
Halftime: St. Mary's Ryken, 21-17.
Three-point goals: Northern 3 (C. Hall 2, Morris); St. Mary's Ryken 3 (Hall 2, Saunders).
CAPTION: Northern's Albert Rice, above right, blocks a layup attempt by St. Mary's Ryken's Joe Saunders late in the second quarter Tuesday night. At right, Ryken's Dabren Wills maneuvers past Northern's Kevin Hall for a shot. Ryken, which hosted the game, led much of the night before the Patriots rallied.