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Morris' double-double lifts North Marion past Weir 70-51 in regular season finale

Feb. 23—RACHEL — Concluding the regular season before the start of sectionals, North Marion boys basketball hosted Weir as both teams scramble to get ready for the postseason.

Being in the same section, the winner would host the sectional final next Friday. North Marion earned the right to host, beating Weir 70-51.

"This win's big because we've considered them for the past four years a rival," North Marion Head Coach Steven Harbert said. "But they were down a guy... [and] he's a really good player. We'll go ahead and take this one and move onto the next."

The missing player Harbert referenced was Weir senior Malachi Stromile, who Harbert said will most likely be back in the potential rematch in the sectional final. In order for the rematch to happen, Weir must beat Oak Glen in the first round.

Three North Marion players scored in double-digits Thursday night. Senior Caden Morris led the way, recording a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Junior Jeffery Cowger followed with 13 points, and senior Landon Frey had 11.

"I've really turned it up on the rebounding part," Morris said. "It's my last year, so I'm gonna give it all I got, and I've just been really crashing towards the rim. I've just been making hustle plays when I can."

For Weir, senior Collin Cross scored almost half of the Red Riders points with 25 along with seven rebounds. Junior Da'Shawd Smith and sophomore Cayden Braswell followed with seven points each, and Smith led the team with eight rebounds.

"We expect [Cross to score that much], but it's a team game too," Weir Head Coach Anthony Santangelo said. "Our players can't expect that every single time. Other guys got to perform and score off of it. But Cross is Cross, we expect that from him every night, but we also needed all the players to execute and just didn't come down to that tonight."

North Marion got the jump on Weir, taking off to a 13-2 run in the first quarter. Scoring in the final three minutes of the quarter came sparingly, and North Marion held a 16-6 lead at the end of it.

Weir found some momentum at the start of the second quarter. The Red Riders got on a 6-2 run and managed to cut the lead to four. North Marion, however, responded and got most of its lost points back, leading 30-22 going into halftime.

"We came together on a timeout, and we all just talked about how we have to lock it up on defense," Morris said. "Getting the gaps more because Cross was getting down the lanes pretty easily. We just filled in the gaps pretty well, and that slowed him down."

Exiting halftime, North Marion carried its momentum into the third quarter. The Huskies got back to a double-digit lead quickly and kept it. By the end of the quarter, North Marion led 52-36.

Starters for both teams stayed in for most of the fourth quarter, and Weir resorted to fouling to send North Marion to the free-throw line. North Marion went six-for-six at the line before teams pulled their starters, and the Huskies went on to win 70-51.

"It's a tough loss," Santangelo said. "We wanted to have a chance to host sectionals, but it is what it is. We had a tough game last night coming here on the road. It's a very tough team and just didn't happen tonight. Didn't shoot well from the field, and move on from here."

Weir heads into sectionals as the home team for the first round game. The Red Riders host Oak Glen on Tuesday, Feb. 27 at 7 p.m.

North Marion, meanwhile, will get a week to prepare for the section final next Friday, Mar. 1. The Huskies play the winner of the Weir and Oak Glen game. Tip off will also be 7 p.m.

Reach Colin C. Rhodes at 304-367-2548