MORTON — Someone had to step up and make a shot.
Morton’s Jonathan Edmond did just that with a minute left in overtime and Demarcus Hollis hit three out of four free throws in the final seconds as the Panthers prevailed 67-66 over Kemper County in overtime on Friday night in a crucial Region 5-3A matchup.
“Key guys stepped up when we needed them too making key buckets and free throws,” said Morton coach Jerrial Dawson. “Kemper is a good team and has some really good players.”
The first half was a game of runs.
Morton opened the game on an 8-0 run, however Kemper County ended the first quarter on a 17-2 run to take a 17-10 lead at the end of the opening quarter.
Morton opened the second quarter on a 10-3 run to tie the game at 20-20. They traded baskets the rest of the half to go into the break tied at 26-26.
The third quarter was a mirror image of the second as both teams traded baskets and leads, with Kemper County holding a slim 43-42 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
With the game tied at 49-49 midway through the fourth quarter, Morton went on an 8-0 run — highlighted by back to back three-pointers by Zavier Burks — to take a 57-49 lead with just over two minutes left.
But the Wildcats ended the quarter on an 8-0 run, and a James Granger lay-up with 41 seconds left tied the game at 57-57.
Each team had a possession in the last 10 seconds, but both turned the ball over, sending the game to overtime.
With 46 seconds left in the extra period and with the game tied 62-62, Edmond hit a floater to give Morton a 64-62 lead.
After Kemper missed a shot to tie the game, Hollis sank a pair of free throws to give the Panthers a 66-62 lead with 21 seconds left. That ended up being enough.
Edmond had 23 points to lead Morton, while Hollis added 14 points and Burks chipped in 12 points for the Panthers (16-5, 5-1 Region 5-3A).
“Down the stretch we took away their big shot makers,” Dawson said. “I feel like we haven’t hit our peak as a team and I feel good about this group and with our size we can make noise in 3A come playoffs.”
Granger had a game-high 27 points to lead Kemper County, while Jamar Grace added 14 points for the Wildcats (6-2, 4-2).
“I think we played good, but we made mistakes and had turnovers at key moments,” said Kemper County coach Qu’Varius Howard. “We missed 15 free throws and in a game like this on the road, you need to make those and we didn’t. We’ll learn from this and move on.”