LOGANVILLE — Grayson’s Austin Morris can’t remember ever having a day like the one he had against Collins Hill at Loganville’s holiday basketball event Saturday morning.
The 6-foot-2 senior guard set a school record with nine 3-pointers — part of a barrage of 14 baskets from behind the arc as a team — on his way to 31 points as the Rams ran past the Eagles 72-63.
“That’s one of the best offensive nights I’ve had in a long time,” said Morris, who finished 9 of 13 (69.2 percent) from the field — all from 3-point range — and a perfect 4 of 4 from the line. “I was feeling it, and my teammates were just finding me open every time. … I just kept moving without the ball and finding a seam in the defense to find the best shot.”
Most of Morris’ 3-pointers came during two separate long-range bombing runs — one in each half, and both of which came at key times for the Rams (9-1).
The first came after Collins Hill (5-5) scored the first eight points of the game, and then gained as much as a seven-point lead at 15-8 following a driving layup from Jalen Mitchell 16 seconds into the second quarter.
After a stickback by Marquise Bumpas cut the deficit to 15-10, the Rams turned up its defense, and Morris began to heat up, hitting three 3-pointers in a 4:08 span to lead an 18-6 run that vaulted Grayson into a 26-21 lead.
Devin Mitchell then briefly answered with a 3-pointer of his own to pull the Eagles to within 26-24, but Morris simply couldn’t miss, hitting two more treys over a 28-second span to combine with two Marquise Lanier free throws that ended an 8-0 run over the final 2:16 of the first half and sent the Rams into intermission with a 34-24 lead.
“The thing with Morris is, he had a game earlier this year against Dacula where he just didn’t shoot very well, and he stopped shooting,” Grayson coach Geoffrey Pierce said. “I told him, ‘Keep shooting.’ … I told him I thought he was the best shooter in the region. I’ll never take him out for shooting.”
Morris heeded his coach’s advice at a time when the Rams needed him the most.
Paced by a big third quarter from Devin Watson, who scored nine of his 16 points in the period, Collins Hill went on a 15-5 run over the final 4:33 that helped cut what had been as much as a 12-point Grayson lead to just 48-44 heading into the fourth quarter.
And with Devin Mitchell, Pierre Richardson and Watson leading the way, the Eagles continued their surge, using a 12-5 run over the first 2:47 of the final frame to regain the lead at 56-63 following a Richardson layup with 5:13 to play.
But Morris quickly tied the game with a 3-pointer to ignite another red-hot sequence.
Less than two minutes later, he found himself open from about 5 feet beyond the 3-point arc and let fly with a rainbow that caught nothing but the bottom of the net to put Grayson back on top at 59-56 with 2:39 to play.
Another Morris trey 50 seconds later made it 62-56, and while Devin Mitchell tried to keep Collins Hill close with his conventional three-point play to pull the Eagles to within 62-59 with 1:35 left, Grayson was able to hit 7 of 8 free throws in the final 1:25 — including four straight from Morris — to seal the win.
As deadly as Morris’ shooting was in the fourth quarter, Collins Hill coach Eric Nathan said the first-half streak, which sparked a 26-11 Grayson run in the second quarter, was perhaps the more devastating to his team.
“That second quarter was disastrous,” Nathan said. “I thought we attacked (the basket), and … we didn’t adjust. … That was the part that was frustrating to me because I don’t think we adjusted to the game.”
Morris was not alone in contributing to the Grayson cause. The Rams also got 10 points and five rebounds from Lanier, while Bumpas came off the bench to chip in six points and a game-high 12 rebounds, 10 of which came in the first half.
Alabama signee Devin Mitchell led Collins Hill with 18 points and added five rebounds, three assists and two blocked shots, while younger brother Jalen Mitchell added 16 points and seven boards and Richardson finished with eight points, six boards and four assist.
Collins Hill girls 67, Grayson 41
Kyra Dixon had 19 points and six rebounds and Madison McAfee posted a double-double with 11 points and 10 boards as the Eagles (6-4) pulled away in the second half to beat the Rams (5-4).
“(Grayson is) very athletic, and that was a concern for us after playing Mountain View (Friday) night, who is very athletic,” Collins Hill coach Paula Skinner said. “But I told (the players), ‘Good teams, maturing teams learn how to come back from losses like (Friday) night,’ and they were pretty down about that. But we had a good second half.”
Brittany Stowers had seven points and six rebounds to help the Eagles, while Sopuluchi Okoye led Grayson with 11 points and Shakara Burton chipped in nine points.