It had been on Ryan Morris’s radar since 2010, when then-coach Ross Callen told him he had a shot at 1,000 points if he put his mind to it.
Four years later, with 30 seconds to go in his high school career, Morris made good on his former coach’s prediction.
Needing 18 points to reach 1,000 against Middletown in the Division III quarterfinals on Wednesday, Morris was at 15 with time winding down before converting a baseline layup and being fouled with just half a minute remaining. He made the ensuing free throw to reach the magic number, the final point of his high school career.
Morris finished with exactly 1,000 career points, and he became just the eighth boys’ player in Pilgrim history to reach the milestone.
“Of course I wanted to win,” Morris said. “But in the back of my mind I was 18 points away. I couldn’t end it without getting 18 points.”
For a while, it looked like he might miss out. He scored just five points in the first half against the third-seeded Mariners, and the Pats were looking elsewhere to put points on the board.
Middletown led 26-18 at halftime.
In the second half though, he started to find his rhythm. He converted an early and-one play, and by the time there was 4:46 to play, he was just three points away.
But Pilgrim was in the precarious position of trying to balance winning a playoff game and getting Morris his points. At that juncture, the Pats were only down 45-35.
“Of course, first game of the playoffs, my team they all want to win and move on,” Morris said. “It’s hard to balance what shots I should take and what shots I shouldn’t take. I try not to force stuff and try to pass it. I want to score but I don’t want to take dumb shots either.”
Over the next few minutes, Middletown began to pull away. It went on a 6-0 run, putting it up 16 with just over two minutes to play.
With its season likely over, Pilgrim head coach Mike Batalon decided it was time to focus on Morris.
“Our mindset is to win the game,” Batalon said. “With around two minutes to go, down 16, at that point we started thinking that if we had the opportunity to get him his points, we should do it and we did it.”
Morris got the ball on Pilgrim’s next possession and was fouled, but he missed the front end of a one-and-one try. The next time down the court, he missed a shot inside.
Time was running short.
Inside a minute, with a loud Pilgrim crowd standing and cheering at Rogers High School, Morris finally delivered. He took a pass on the right block, made a move toward the hoop and made the bucket while being fouled. He then calmly stepped to the free throw line and buried the shot for his 1,000th point.
“Ryan’s a great kid,” Batalon said. “I couldn’t be more proud of him. I’m so happy that he was able to achieve this personal milestone. I’m so happy that he was able to experience the playoffs as a senior. He’s grown a lot as a player and a person the last three years and I’m proud to say I was his coach.”
The game was stopped and Morris’s teammates hugged him at mid-court. Emotional, the senior waved to the crowd and smiled, proud of something that had been four years in the making.
He needed 370 points entering his senior year. He got exactly that.
“In the fall I would be in math on my phone and doing 370 divided by 21 games or whatever, 17.2 points per game,” Morris said. “I kind of knew the whole time that I had a shot to get it. It’s crazy that the last shot I take is 1,000.”
Middletown eventually won the game 56-42, ending Pilgrim’s season, but there was still plenty to celebrate. The Pats had made the playoffs for the first time in five years, and Morris had finished his career in style. In his last three games he scored 22, 19 and 18 points.
“The guys on the team were really hoping he would get it,” Batalon said. “If we couldn’t win the game the second best thing is that he got his points. We’re happy for him.”
Morris, also a standout baseball player, is coming off labrum surgery he had last spring, and he’ll now turn his attention to the diamond, where he’ll be trying to recapture the form that made him a Division I prospect in his sophomore season prior to the injury.
He’s looking forward to continuing what has already been a senior year to remember.
“I’ve been throwing the last couple months,” Morris said. “It’s slowly starting to come back to where I used to be my sophomore year. I’m hoping the scouts come back again and we’ll see what happens this year.”