Morrissey carries Montini past ACC

By Matt Le Cren
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 2/28/2018 10:14 PM

Montini coach Daryl Thomas was asked whether senior Matthew Morrissey is capable of consistently dominating the paint.

"Yes, when he goes to the rim," Thomas said. "When he wants to, he can."

Morrissey wanted to -- and did -- Wednesday night against Aurora Central Catholic. The 6-foot-5 guard/forward was an imposing presence at both of ends of the floor, scoring 18 points to go with 10 rebounds and 3 steals.

Morrissey tallied 12 points and half of his rebounds in the first half to keep his team in the game until the Broncos pulled away late for a 57-44 victory in a Class 3A Aurora Central Catholic regional semifinal.

Fourth-seeded Montini (17-10) will take on top-seeded Burlington Central (26-3) in Friday's title game.

"I don't want someone to act like they can boss me around," Morrissey said. "So I have to go prove myself in the post."

Morrissey did just that and it was a fortunate thing for the Broncos, who trailed the sixth-seeded Chargers 11-6 until the big man scored 8 points during a 10-0 run that gave Montini the lead for good.

Three of the baskets came on putbacks and the other on a fastbreak layup, which was a sign of things to come.

Despite the early burst the Broncos struggled to shrug off the pesky Chargers (16-11), who sank nine 3-pointers to stay competitive.

Senior guard Kyle Czerak drilled six 3-pointers en route to a game-high 22 points and 10 rebounds. Jonas Cebulski added two 3s and Colin Dean hit one that pulled ACC within 29-28 early in the third quarter.

That's when Montini went to a 2-2-1 zone press and started attacking the basket more. It paid off when the Broncos forced 8 turnovers in the third quarter and scored 12 points in transition.

"We got out of the man and went to a 2-2-1 and that seemed to get them a little bit frustrated," Thomas said. "We didn't make a 3 and we really had to start getting to the basket in order to capitalize on our height and our size.

"I'm really happy with the guys and the way they adjusted."

Indeed, the Broncos went 0 for 8 from beyond the arc and didn't make many jump shots. But Morrissey and Anthony Thompson, who both had 3 steals, scored multiple times off turnovers. Luke Merrill converted a Thompson steal into a layup that increased the lead to 43-31 with 1:14 left in the third.

"They weren't able to handle the pressure so we just kept it up and had good energy even when people were coming off the bench," Morrissey said. "Then we were able to get fastbreak layups."

Cameron Pederson had 10 points for the Chargers, whose offense proved to be one-dimensional.

"Thank God they weren't making more (3s)," Thomas said. "(Czerak) is a phenomenal player for them.

"We had to really try to contain him, but outside of him, the rest of those guys were not knocking them down, which really helped us."

Thompson had 14 points and Yousuf Mitchell added 6 points and 6 boards for Montini, which went 15 for 16 from the free-throw line. The Broncos know they will have to be nearly perfect Friday.

"We're not going to be afraid," Morrissey said. "It's my senior year. I want to leave a mark and we want to be the best Montini team ever."

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