Jeff Smith noon, March 8
Tigers advance to Division II semifinals with narrow one-point win
TORREY HIGHLANDS – So little separated Morse and Westview from the opening tip on Friday that overtime was necessary – and the extra period just barely decided a winner. The fifth-seeded Tigers knocked off fourth-seeded Westview 62-61 in a Division II quarterfinal contest that came down to the final possession.
“We just kept digging deep,” said Morse senior guard Marley Simmons. “My teammates kept fighting hard, and we just kept hitting big shots.”
Morse (26-6) trailed Westview 42-41 after three quarters, and Tigers scored the first five points of the fourth quarter to jump in front. With 4:35 left in regulation, Morse junior guard Alfonso Wilson hit a jumper to give the Tigers a 52-46 lead – the biggest advantage either team had at any point in the game.
“I had a feeling it was going to go to overtime or come down to the last few seconds,” Wilson said.
Westview (23-6) methodically rallied and tied the game at 54 in the final minute on a fast break layup by senior forward Sam Okhotin. Morse had two chances to win the game in regulation but Simmons missed a pair of contested jump shots – the last of which came at the buzzer and sent the game into overtime.
“Everyone misses shots, so I just stayed focused and I hit some shots later on and got us the win,” Simmons said. “I had to get my team the win.”
In a fast-moving overtime period, Simmons broke a tie with jump shots on consecutive possessions. The second shot put Morse ahead 60-56 with 48 seconds remaining, but was answered less than 10 seconds later by an Okhotin three-pointer that made it a one-point game.
“It was a great high school basketball game,” said Westview head coach Kyle Smith.
After two Simmons free throws put Morse ahead 62-59, Westview had possession with 9.2 seconds left and a chance to tie the game. The Wolverines moved the ball around the perimeter and Okhotin missed a potential game-tying three in the final seconds that was tipped in before the buzzer – a two-point basket that changed the score but not the outcome of Morse’s narrow victory.
“It means everything – we’re just one step closer to our goal of winning CIF,” Wilson said.
Morse’s backcourt duo of Wilson and Simmons led the Tigers in scoring and made a handful of big shots down the stretch. Wilson scored 23 points and Simmons added 19, including six of Morse’s eight points in overtime.
“It takes a team. We don’t have just one individual – anyone of us can score 20 on any given night,” Wilson said. “We’re at the point in the season where it doesn’t matter who scores the bucket, just that the bucket is scored.”
Morse advances to face top-seeded La Costa Canyon (29-2) in the Division II semifinals on Tuesday riding a 10-game winning streak. After beating Westview in the quarterfinals for the second season in a row, the Tigers are making their third straight semifinals appearance.
“This is what we’ve been waiting for,” Simmons said. “They’re a great team, and we just have to stay solid – we’ll get the win.”
Okhotin led Westview with 23 points, and junior forward Cody Williams grabbed 23 rebounds for the Wolverines to go along with 11 points. The narrow loss brings an end to Westview’s best season in school history, which included a record number of wins and a first-ever Palomar League title.
“It’s tough to say goodbye to these seniors,” Smith said. “They’ve meant so much to this program, and watching them grow up through our program and making it what it is now is pretty impressive.”
Morse – 62 (12-18-11-13-8)
Wilson 23, Simmons 19, Phillips 14, Sellers 2, Hueitt 0 (starters) Jah. Mitchell 4
Westview – 61 (16-12-14-12-7)
Okhotin 23, Govea 12, Williams 11, Watkins 10, Pineda 2 (starters) Fabela 3
Pictured: Westview guard Ryan Pineda puts up a shot between Morse guard Marley Simmons (11) and forward Tyrone Hueitt in the lane
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