Morley than bargained for

By Chris McManes
Special to The Montgomery Journal
Published Feb. 28, 2001; reprinted with permission

None of Will Morley's Catholic University teammates have started calling him "Will the Thrill," but that might change if the Good Counsel graduate continues doing what he did Saturday in the Capital Athletic Conference Tournament championship.

With time running out, Morley got open in the lane, took a pass from senior Pat Maloney and hit the game-winning shot as time expired to lift the Cardinals to a 61-59 victory over Marymount. The win, before 1,050 fans at Catholic's DuFour Center, sent the Cardinals (22-5) to their fourth consecutive appearance in the NCAA Division III Tournament.

While the final shot was primarily designed for Maloney, who had a game-high 27 points and five assists, it was Morley who took it when Maloney drew a double-team along the right baseline. That helped free Morley, a freshman power forward from Olney who added a career-high eight rebounds.

"Will had had a pretty good game, but I think to score like that at the buzzer will really help catapult his career," said Catholic Coach Mike Lonergan, who has guided the Cardinals to six NCAA Tournament berths in his nine years at the Northeast Washington school. "And before the game I told him that we really needed him to rebound. When (center) Matt (Hilleary) and Will are both rebounding, that's huge for us."

Morley, third on the team in scoring (10.1 points per game) and rebounding (4.0 rpg), was named CAC Rookie of the Year on Monday. Catholic, ranked 14th in the nation by, is 15-2 since he became a starter and has won 10 in a row. It will host City College of New York (14-14) in the first round of the NCAA playoffs tomorrow night.

"It's always an honor to get an award, but I'm just really glad that we won the game (Saturday) and got into the NCAAs," said Morley, who joined the only Division III program in the nation to appear in the past three Sweet 16s. "That's all that really matters. I think the award is more of a reflection on my teammates. They definitely helped me out."

Last season at Good Counsel, Morley averaged 12 points and a team-leading eight rebounds per game for the 21-10 Falcons. He had 15 points and 15 rebounds in Good Counsel's stunning 57-35 victory at DeMatha when the Stags' seniors were playing their final home game. Because of that game, Morley is unable to declare his NCAA Tournament-delivering shot the biggest thrill of his athletic career.

"That was pretty big, but beating DeMatha by 22 at home, that still stands out," said Morley, whose uncle Dutch Morley played point guard at DeMatha in the late 1970s and later at Maryland. "But that game on Saturday was pretty awesome, how the fans were into it and how everyone rushed the court. It was pretty neat."

Lonergan was pleased to see his 6-foot-4, 205-pounder recognized as the top player in the conference. Catholic finished 11-3 in the league to win its fourth consecutive CAC regular season title.

"I think it's a lot harder to be a starter on the best team in the league than to put up 15-20 points (a game) on a mediocre team," he said. "There's some good freshmen in the league, but I thought that Will was more deserving."

Morley is pretty happy with his first season in college.

"If I could have three more years that were as good as this year, that'd be pretty good," he said. "I thank Coach Lonergan for giving me the opportunity to play this season. At a lot of schools, freshmen don't really get to play that much. I'm just glad I was able to show what I could do. I've still got a long way to go to work on my game.

"Hopefully it just gets better and better each year."

Morley has scored in double figures 14 times this season. He tallied a career-high 24 points on 10 of 13 shooting in an 88-66 victory at York (Pa.) on Jan. 31. His 22 points in the Cardinals' 83-61 win at Marymount on Jan. 20 included a 9-for-9 performance from the foul line. He has hit 80 of 95 free throws (84.2 percent) to lead the CAC.

"For a freshman that's incredible, but for a post player, that's even more incredible," Lonergan said. "Another thing I like about him is that he probably leads our team in taking charges. You can't teach that because some players just don't have the heart to do it. But Will is a natural; he's not afraid to get hit."

Although Morley's 49.5 percent shooting accuracy reflects his ability to score inside, he has also hit 11 3-pointers in 2000-01.

"Will can score inside, and we've had trouble getting players that could score inside," Lonergan said. "And he can step out and shoot the three-pointer. So, he's very difficult to guard.

"The thing I'd like him to work on is his rebounding. He should be our best or second-best rebounder, but he's inconsistent in that area. And he has to continue to work on his ball-handling so that he can face the basket even more in the future."

So what did Lonergan think when a freshman took the final shot Saturday for a team whose five seniors have posted a four-year record of 94-21 (81.7 percent) and last season advanced to the first Elite Eight in school history?

"When Will got the ball I was very confident that his shot would go in because he's such a good shooter and he was only about eight to 10 feet from the basket," Lonergan said. "Even though Will's just a freshman, we were all pretty confident that he would score."

Despite all his and his team's accomplishments this season, including three tournament championships and a victory over Division I Albany (N.Y.), Morley's hungry for more.

"I'm just glad we are where we are now," he said. "Now hopefully we can get to the Final Four for the seniors. That's the only place they haven't been to yet."