FRANKLIN PARK – Thursday night was lights out for Morton guard Manny Rodriguez.
The Mustangs' senior guard scored a career-high 33 points in Morton's 67-55 win at Leyden in the West Suburban Gold.
Rodriguez hit on 9 of 13 3-point attempts for Morton (12-4, 3-1).
Morton looked unstoppable in the first quarter, building a 25-9 lead. Rodriguez hit four 3-pointers and scored 14 points in the quarter.
"I came out and did what I had to do," said Rodriguez. "I don't lack for confidence if I miss a few shots. I'm here to do what I have to do."
Leyden committed seven turnovers in the first quarter, which led to six Mustang points.
Things changed midway through the second quarter for the Eagles.
A combination of more intense defense and foul trouble for Morton helped Leyden, which trailed 28-9 early in the second quarter, close the gap to 35-24 with 1:02 remaining before the break. Morton extended the lead back to 38-26 as the first half ended.
"We can't start games like this," said Leyden coach Bill Heisler. "This mirrored our game with Hinsdale South were we dug ourselves a hole and then it was fight, fight, fight to get back in the game and then we ran out of gas.
The Eagles (10-8, 3-2) used an explosive 21-6 third quarter to grab a 47-44 lead going into the fourth quarter.
Leyden standout JaQuet Hardimon, who scored 20 points and grabbed nine rebounds, scored eight points in the quarter. Justin Timmerhaus (10 points) added four.
Tied 44-44, Noah Guadalupe hit his only basket of the night, a 3-pointer to give the Eagles the lead.
The strong effort to come back by Leyden took its toll in the fourth quarter.
Morton's Eliseo Gonzalez tied the score a 47-47 with a 3-pointer. Jesus Perez, who scored 13 points, hit two straight baskets as Morton took a 51-47 lead.
"Those baskets by Jesus got us going," said Rodriguez. "We had some lapses and you can't afford to have those when you play good teams like Leyden."
Jesus is probably the best point guard in the league," said Morton coach Tony Martinucci. We kind of laid an egg in the third quarter. In the fourth quarter we pressed them and picked up on pressuring the ball. That kind of turned things for us. For Manny, he just shot the heck out of the ball.
Tyler Morgan's basket brought Leyden back to 51-49 with 6:18 left in the game. From that point it was all Mustangs.
Rodriguez connected twice from long range. Perez followed with one and Rodriguez connected for another 3-pointer during the 18-2 run that gave Morton a 62-49 lead with 3:13 left.
Jiovanny Garcia came off the bench for Leyden with 12 points/
"I think Manny stood out for them," said Heisler. "We came out a step slow in the fourth quarter and they began hitting shots again. We mishandled the ball (seven turnovers) in the fourth quarter. I don't know if it was fatigue. We have had some good spurts. We just have to be consistent."