MORTON — Someone had to step and make a shot.
Morton’s Jonathan Edmond did just that with just a minute left in overtime, and Demarcus Hollis hit 3 of 4 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 to make key buckets and free throws,” Morton coach Jerrial Dawson said. “Kemper is good team and has some really good players.”
The first half was a game of runs.
Morton opened the game on a 8-0 run, but Kemper County ended the first quarter on a 17-2 run to take a 17-10 lead at the end of the frame. Morton then began the second quarter on a 10-3 run to tie the game at 20, and from there each team traded baskets. The score was tied 26-26 at halftime.
The third quarter was a mirror image of second quarter as both traded baskets and leads, and Kemper County held a slim 43-42 advantage heading into the fourth quarter.
With the game tied at 49 midway through the fourth quarter, Morton went on an 8-0 run highlighted by back to back 3-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 layup with 41 seconds left by James Granger tied the game at 57. Each team had a possession in the last 10 seconds, but both turned the ball over and sent the game to overtime.
In the extra period with the game tied at 62, Edmond hit a floater with 46 seconds remaining 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 and seal the win.
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).
“Down the stretch we took away their big shot makers,” Dawson said. “I feel like we haven’t hit our peak as 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 Wildcats (6-2, 4-2).
“I think we played well, but we made mistakes and had turnovers at key moments,” Kemper County coach Qu’Varius Howard said. “We missed 15 free throws, and in a game like this on the road you need to make those, and we didn’t. Will learn from this and move on.”