PEORIA — After falling behind by 11 points early in the fourth quarter, the Pinckneyville boys basketball team made a furious comeback attempt but fell just short in a loss to Winnebago, 67-63, Friday in the IHSA Class 2A state semifinals.
Dawson Yates sank two free throws with 18 seconds left to pull the Panthers within 64-63. Ty Waller answered with two free throws of his own for Winnebago to push the lead back to three points.
Pinckneyville had two good looks from beyond the arc in the final 15 seconds, but both shots just missed.
“It was a real hard-fought game, there is no doubt about it,” said Winnebago coach Joe Murphy. “From the very start, I’d tell our kids in the timeouts, it’s going to be close and right down to the wire. Pinckneyville is a very, very good team. They are so fundamentally sound. We knew it was going to be a really tough game.”
J.C. Moll drained a 3-pointer to give the Panthers a 36-35 edge with four minutes left in the third quarter. That’s when Winnebago’s 6-foot-9, 235-pound center, Andrew Morrissey, took over. Morrissey scored 10 straight points for the Indians.
Winnebago (30-2) took an 11-point lead after a 10-0 run. The Panthers simply couldn’t stop Morrissey, who finished with 29 points and 16 rebounds.
“Their run at the end of the third quarter put us on our heels,” said Pinckneyville coach Bob Waggoner. “But I was extremely proud of our effort to get back in the basketball game. In the fourth quarter, we picked up our press a little bit and got them to play a little bit faster. But the big factor they had was the big kid inside. They could always get two points whenever they needed it.”
Moll and Tanner Spihlmann scored in the paint, and Yates dunked to cap off a 6-0 run for Pinckneyville. The Panthers got to within one point in the fourth quarter twice and within two a few more times. But they could never tie the game or take the lead in the final eight minutes.
“We had great looks all night,” Waggoner said. “I really thought we did a great job of attacking, and we got the ball to the rim. But we had to struggle to get everything we were getting. And the one thing they had was the ability to dump the ball down there and get an easy one every now and then. It’s a tough thing. He’s probably the best post player we’ve faced.”
Kenzell Jones added 14 points for Winnebago, and Ty Waller tallied 10. Yates led Pinckneyville with 16 points, and Spihlmann contributed 11. Moll and Grant Jausel scored 14 points apiece.
Winnebago plays Chicago Orr for the 2A state championship at 7:15 p.m. Saturday. Pinckneyville takes on Bloomington Central Catholic for third place at 5:30 p.m.