Morris losing his anonymity
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- For the last couple of years, Webster County coach Jerry Dean has been fond of calling Brett Morris "the best-kept secret in West Virginia.''
If Morris and the Highlanders can knock off North Marion in the Class AA Region 1 co-finals tonight, the secret may just be out of the bag for good.
Because if Webster wins tonight, it advances to the state tournament for the second straight season and for a third time since 2009. And Morris, now a 6-foot-4 senior, would again grab his share of the spotlight at the Charleston Civic Center.
Last year, Morris earned first-team all-state honors after that state tourney trip as he averaged 23.8 points, 9.1 rebounds and 4.2 assists - and he's upped those numbers across the board this year.
"Because of our area,'' Dean said, "we're not close to any major news outlets. But he deserves the exposure, as do our other kids.''
In last year's state tournament, the Highlanders were booted by eventual champion Tug Valley 83-59, but Morris made quite an impression on those who saw him play - many for the first time.
He wound up with 26 points and 13 rebounds despite missing about five minutes with foul trouble and, oh yes, also pulled off a breakaway slam-dunk.
Dean thinks this year's team (19-3 and ranked No. 8 in the state) might actually have overachieved, thanks in large part to Morris.
"When we started out this year,'' Dean said, "I didn't think we were quite as good as what we were last year. But I think the kids have stepped up around him and he's really raised us to a different kind of level than what I thought we could get back to.
"He can not only score, but what I think he does best is his passing. It makes the kids so much better around him. I'm not saying this just because I'm his coach, but I haven't seen many kids play as hard night in and night out as he does.''
Morris nearly averages a double-double this season (25.9 points, 9.4 rebounds and also 4.8 assists) and was two assists shy of a quadruple-double against Ritchie County in a sectional victory (points, rebounds, assists and blocked shots).
On the season, Morris leads the team in points (570), rebounds (207), assists (105), blocks (101) and steals (55).
Other options for the Highlanders include 6-3 senior Hunter Given (13.7 points, 7.1 rebounds per game) and 6-4 junior Dalton Davis (8.5 points, 5.7 rebounds).
Dean realizes another state tournament trip isn't a given, considering the rugged schedule North Marion has played this season.
"It's not going to be an easy matchup for us,'' Dean said. "They're bigger than we are and probably played better competition than we do.
"But even if I wasn't coaching this team, I wouldn't count [Morris] or our team out. We've been in some games when we really weren't playing well, and he's bailed us out a lot of times. He makes everybody around him a lot better player, and we have some other kids who are pretty talented for double-A high school players.''
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or firstname.lastname@example.org.