Morse Wild Streak Proves Costly in Tournament

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Morse's players had grown delirious from sitting in the bleachers all day. Christian hadn't played a game in two weeks, and Coach Randy Wright was worried that his players might need a refresher course in Basketball 101.

With that, Thursday's first-round girls' matchup between these two in the Aztec/Highland Sports Tournament had the prospects of a fiasco.

At times it was, and the result was no good for Morse, which wound up losing, 58-44. Yet the game, played at host Montgomery High, was practically devoid of turnovers. Christian turned the ball over only 13 times, Morse only 11. It's the shooting that was awful.

Morse (6-6) might have won this game if not for a loose-cannon offense that took 43 shots in 16 minutes between the second and third quarters for only 17 points. The Patriots (4-1) scored 37 during the same span and ran away with the game.

"We've been here too long waiting around; we've been sitting in the stands since 12 o'clock," said Morse's Tonnah Smoot, who finished with 18 points. "We were tired. We couldn't concentrate, and the shots weren't falling until the end. By then it was too late."

Smoot went wild with less than two minutes left, scoring eight unanswered points and stealing two inbound passes. But the flurry merely cut the margin from 22 to 14 points and took a little luster off a 29-point performance by Christian's Tiffany Stutz. Stutz was shut out in the Patriots' five-point fourth quarter but scored 21 in the crucial second and third quarters. Morse was dominating the boards and trailing, 25-18, when it started taking wild three-point shots.

"We were real flat," said Tigers Coach Willie Cain, who let his team take shooting practice rather than talk to them with Christian leading, 34-18, at halftime. "We've played Rancho Bernardo real tough, we've played Kearny tough. The girls weren't ready to play."

Christian increased the tempo in the second half, put together runs of 8-0 and 6-0 and led by 26 points at the end of the third period. Then they went 0 for 10 from the field and couldn't score for the first five minutes of the fourth, yet Morse could only cut the lead to 18. The Patriots needed every point from Stutz, the standout guard.

Said a relieved Wright, "I hate Christmas break. It feels like we're starting over."

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