HEBRON — The play isn't that complicated — a basic pass and cut to the basket — but it hasn't worked in the two years since Morgan Township coach Eric Braden implemented it.
"Every time I tell them to run it in a game, they never run it right," Braden said.
This time, the Cherokees (10-3) executed the play and it won them a Porter County Conference tournament championship. In-bounding the ball from in front of his bench with 4.6 seconds left, Morgan's Trevor Braden passed it out to the top to Cody Maxwell and bolted a diagonal dash to the hoop. Braden took a bounce pass from Maxwell and scored the winning basket as the Cherokees nipped defending champion Westville, 45-43, in front of a raucous capacity crowd of 2,000.
"I was very surprised," Braden said. "I was afraid I was going to butcher the layup. My guy went and helped on Cody, and by that time I was cutting to the basket. I don't think he even realized it. We've run it so many times and we've never run it right."
Westville (9-4) lost the ball on the in-bounds pass and a length-of-the court heave after a missed free throw by Morgan landed well off the mark.
"We fell asleep," Westville coach Nate Mrozinski said. "Credit to Morgan. It was a good play on offense and a bad play on defense. The game's on the line, we needed to play strong defense and we didn't."
The game was tied at 39-39, 41-41 and 43-43 in a grinding fourth quarter. Westville led for the last time on a post-up by Cade Albers but Hunter Swivel's putback evened it again with 1:36 left. Albers was fouled with 51 seconds left, but missed the front end of the bonus, giving Morgan the chance to run down the clock.
"We took some rushed shots, some 3s we didn't need to take," Mrozinski said. "We had Braden in foul trouble. We kept telling them to go in the post."
Morgan trailed most of the third quarter, lagging by as many as five, but closed with six in a row, taking a 39-37 edge to the final eight minutes on a Luke Savage driving layup.
"I liked going against their zone. Their man was really good," coach Braden said. "They're long and athletic. A 10-point lead from them is like four because they're going to keep shooting."
Morgan used a 12-3 run to take a seven-point lead after one quarter, Maxwell splashing a 25-footer at the horn. Braden had eight points in the quarter, finding space in the middle of the Blackhawks zone for four mid-range jump shots. Albers had a monster 13-point second quarter that included three NBA range 3s to rally the Blackhawks from a 15-8 deficit. Tyrese Walker banked in a 3 at the horn to send Westville to the break up 27-26.
"Trevor can elevate over most guys," coach Braden said. "Cade's one of 'em he can't. He's a great player. Hunter shot the ball and Luke has come on great for us. Josh (Bencie) did a nice job on the boards."
Albers scored a game-high 24 points, four more than Braden. Swivel notched nine.
"It means a lot to the boys," coach Braden said. "A lot of them have been together since third grade. They're getting some confidence. They put in a lot of hard work in the offseason and it's paying off. It's nice to see it come together."
Morgan's last PCC title came in 2015, when Braden's son and Trevor's brother Chase was a senior.
"It's nice, especially with the girls winning and my dad being the coach," Trevor said. "It's a special moment for Morgan Township, a moment I won't ever forget."
The win gave Morgan 11 PCC tourney titles as it also reclaimed the Keg, the conference traveling trophy.