RIVER RIDGE — Kolby Morgan and Tia Charles have played together since the seventh grade. Now juniors at John Curtis, their play-making abilities are so similar, their styles so comparable — from 3-point shooting to slashing through defenses to reach the rim — that coach Barbara Farris jokingly wonders if they’re Siamese twins.
So it came as little surprise Friday night that the Patriots duo zipped around their home gym against Riverside with one following the other to the rim. Or with one setting up the other for an outside shot. It was a simple, yet effective strategy that paced John Curtis to a 65-50 win over Riverside.
Morgan scored a game-high 32 points and Charles added 24, a winning combination which sealed a District 9-2A title for the defending Class 2A state champions.
“I don’t know what it is,” Farris, smiling, said of her juniors’ ability to mimic each other’s play. “As long as it’s working, I’m not going to interrupt it.”
The only time Morgan and Charles weren’t playing off each other occurred in the final seconds. Morgan left the game with cramps. We always think alike,” Morgan said. “Like we know when one person’s running, the other is going to be right behind.”
Not that Riverside made winning easy Friday night. Farris wants John Curtis to work on its post defense, as well as clock management late in games. But besides the short list of improvements, she felt like the Lady Patriots are in playoff form.
Their efforts were enough to curtail Riverside’s Kennedy White, who scored 23 points in the post. Point guard Channan Simmons, playing with a hyperextended left thumb, added nine points.
John Curtis led 34-18 late in the second quarter as Morgan scored on a layup to end a fast break. But the Rebels rallied, scoring the final 10 points before halftime. Jaimaya Bolden made a free throw, Kelsey a jumper, Simmons a 3-pointer and on the next possession, a jump shot. White ended the first half for Riverside with another score in the post.
With 5:52 left in the third quarter, Kendra Turner made two free throws, trimming the Riverside deficit to 36-34. It was the closest the Rebels came to matching John Curtis’ offense. The Patriots outscored Riverside 10-5 to end the quarter. In the fourth quarter, Morgan (eight points) and Charles (nine points) scored all but two points for John Curtis.
On a fastbreak, Morgan found Charles for a layup with 4:53 left, giving Curtis a 55-42 lead.
“It just comes easy and natural to us,” Charles said.