OGDEN — For two-and-a-half quarters Wednesday, Morgan looked every bit like the best team in 3A. After that, the top-ranked Trojans were in full-blown survival mode.
Despite leading by 23 points late in the third quarter, Morgan can't help but feel lucky to escape with a 63-54 victory over Ben Lomond.
"If you'd have given me a one-point victory coming in, I would've taken it," said Morgan coach Jim Wiscombe.
That was before the opening tip-off. But when a team leads by 23 in the second half, even a nine-point victory is somewhat disconcerting.
Morgan enjoyed its largest lead of 43-20 with three minutes remaining in the third quarter following a 3-pointer by Reed Nielsen. The Scots closed that quarter on a 9-2 run, whittling the deficit to 45-29.
Even with momentum on their side, the Scots were facing a ridiculously tough challenge of overcoming a 16-point deficit against the only undefeated team left in 3A. They nearly pulled it off.
Playing with a confidence level that was non-existent in the first half, Ben Lomond began giving its fans reason for hope.
Trailing 53-38 with six minutes remaining, the Scots made their push as James Stokes and Ty Baty made back-to-back 3-pointers, followed by a 1-of-2 free throws by Corey Townsend. With Morgan's once-insurmountable lead down to 53-45, the situation worsened for the Trojans as 6-foot-5 center Brock Weeks picked up his fifth personal foul on an offensive foul.
"We had a great first half, but then they came out and hit some 3s in the third and fourth quarters," said Wiscombe.
A minute later after Weeks' departure, Ben Lomond missed a golden opportunity to narrow the gap even more. Following a foul on the Scots, an animated Wiscombe uttered something the ref didn't like. Wiscombe said "I didn't swear," but the ref nonetheless whistled a technical foul.
Amazingly, Ben Lomond's Stokes missed both technical free throws, but made up for it with a rebound putback with 1:50 remaining to cut the lead to 55-49. On the Scots' next possession, Chris Medina made it 55-51, much to the delight of Ben Lomond's student section.
"It's important for us to have games like this, because down the road they will all be tight," said Wiscombe.
Morgan may have wasted 19 points off its 23-point lead, but it wasn't about to lose the game. The Trojans made 8-of-10 foul shots in the final 74 seconds, including 5-of-6 by Josh Shaw who finished with a game-high 22 points, to seal the victory.
"Shaw really helped us down the stretch by making some key free throws," said Wiscombe.
Stokes finished with 18 points to lead Ben Lomond, while Akeem Washington added 15.