Wow, what a year for Morton Junior High School athletics.
The Junior Potter seventh-grade girls basketball team completed a perfect season Thursday with a 27-24 win over Edwardsville Liberty in the championship game of the Illinois Elementary School Association Class 4A state tournament.
The state title is the first for MJHS at either grade level in girls basketball.
Playing in front of a throng of Morton fans at Normal Parkside Junior High, the seventh graders delivered their 27th victory in as many tries, a school record for an MJHS girls team.
"A state championship is a goal every season, but I never considered the possibility of an undefeated season," Junior Potter seventh-grade coach Don Swearingen said.
"I'm most proud of how the girls have handled their success this season. They have maintained their focus and drive when it would have been easy to be overwhelmed."
Josi Becker had 15 of the Junior Potters' points. She set individual and championship game records with four 3-pointers.
Crystal Cobler added six points. Caylie Jones and Jena Liddle also scored in the final.
Jones had the last four points of the game. Her shot with 3:22 left put MJHS back in front, 25-24. She made two free throws with 2:19 remaining.
One of only two scorers for Edwardsville Liberty, Rachel Pranger had a game-high 20 points, but missed a 3 in the closing seconds.
Morton discussed Pranger all week in its game plans. The girls stuck with their defense and held her without a point during the last five minutes.
Other members of the Junior Potters are: Tori Baker, Kassidy Shurman, Nicole Dullard, Macy Meiss, Bethany Rowell, Sydney Hillard, Hannah Martin, Sydney Grant, Alaina Fonner, Keykey Lalka and Laynie Laktas.
Eighth-grade coach Darren Hurst served as the seventh grade assistant.
For the previous three seasons, many of the players were coached by Morton High School girls basketball head coach Bob Becker.
A year ago, the Morton Heat sixth-grade girls went 29-2. They compiled a 74-10 overall record under Becker with 10 tournament championships.
In the fall, the MJHS baseball team went 25-0 and captured the 3A state championship under first-year head coach Jesse Crawford.
The only other time the Junior Potters won dual state titles in the same calendar year was 1989. Baseball and seventh-grade boys basketball earned those crowns.
Swearingen thinks the seventh graders have a bright future.
"This group will only continue to improve. They have an incredible passion for the game and a great work ethic," he said. "I would not be shocked to see them go on to even bigger and better things."