OREM — Over that span of 10 minutes during Friday’s 3A girls first round game, Morgan went through a stretch where it could do no wrong and then conversely do virtually nothing right. Fortunately for Morgan, the high came first.
It built a big enough cushion during the third quarter run to withstand Union’s rally attempt as it held on for the 59-52 victory in one of the only competitive 3A first round games at Orem High School.
Morgan advances to the 3A quarterfinals with the victory and will face No. 1 Emery next Thursday at the Sevier Valley Center.
“We’re going to have to come in focused and mentally ready to make sure we’re making the correct plays,” said Morgan coach Sterling Mack.
That’s what Morgan did during a dominant stretch coming out of halftime.
Leading 24-23 at the half, Morgan upped the pressure defensively and scored 14 straight points in the third quarter to push the lead to 38-23. Union didn’t score its first points until the 3:43 mark of the quarter.
Morgan’s full court press contributed to seven turnovers during the stretch.
“Second half I just felt like if we could put a little more pressure on their guards we could get them to cough it up a little bit, get them out of tune and discombobulated,” said Mack, who called it the best approach to a second half his team has had all season.
Morgan never relinquished the lead, but not without trying.
Suddenly in a big hole itself, Union was forced to up its defensive pressure and Morgan proved to be just as turnover prone.
After going down by 15, Union closed the quarter on a 13-3 run to remain within striking distance.Comment on this story
It continued to chip away at the lead in the fourth quarter, cutting it 41-38 early in the quarter and then again to 48-46 with under two minutes remaining. It had two shots to potentially tie or take the lead down 48-46, but Morgan’s defense forced difficult shots.
Union again cut the lead to 52-50 with 50 seconds left, but Morgan hit its free-throws down the stretch to survive and advance.
“I’m glad we had that cushion. If we didn’t, they would’ve pulled it off,” said Mack.