The Morton girls basketball team pulled off the feat that often is difficult in sports — beating an opponent three times.
The Potters topped Washington, 47-35, Feb. 12 in the Class 3A Bloomington Central Catholic Regional semifinals.
The Lady Panthers were no ordinary team, either, having won nine of their last 10 games and fresh off a 40-point shellacking of Bloomington the previous night.
“(Washington) came out with a great gameplan,” MHS head coach Bob Becker said. “We knew Washington would come out and compete.”
Sarah Livingston of No. 1-seeded Morton had a double-double of 13 points and 11 rebounds, both game-high figures.
Teammate Chandler Ryan added 11 points, while Kate Byrne had eight and Abbie Cox seven.
The game was a far cry from a 51-21 whipping the Potters administered Jan. 26 on the Lady Panthers’ home floor.
“I was proud of our kids,” said Becker. “Our kids really showed some fight. Both teams played with a lot of heart.”
The first possession went as well as Washington (20-8) could have hoped.
After holding the ball for one minute, Makayla Hartter darted to the hoop for a lay-up.
But following multiple Lady Panther turnovers and eight straight Morton points, capped by a Byrne assist to Savannah Rhodes, the plan was scrapped.
A Cox basket, preceding a Ryan 3-pointer, allowed the Potters to open up an 11-4 lead.
Morton’s Bella Jackson came in and made an instant impact in the second quarter. She had three rebounds, including a putback bucket.
A key segment occurred just before halftime. Clinging to a 20-17 advantage, the Potters recorded six consecutive points.
Livingston upped the margin to five at the 1:28 mark. With 23 seconds left, Emily Schultz chipped in a hoop.
Ryan drew a foul on a shot at the buzzer. She sank both free throws to make it 26-17.
“That really hurt us when they got it to nine,” Washington head coach Randy Marchand said. “Against a team like that, you can’t have those little spurts.”
The Morton momentum continued as the second half commenced.
Ten consecutive points gave the Potters a 36-19 bulge with 3:21 left in the third quarter.
Livingston connected on two free throws. Byrne then provided back-to-back field goals, assisted by Ryan and Livingston, respectively.
Byrne then passed to Livingston as Morton consistently got the ball inside.
Byrne and Ryan both split free throws to create the biggest Potter lead to that point.
The fourth-seeded Lady Panthers were not finished, however, as used two Hayley Reneau treys to slice the margin to 39-28 by the end of the period.
Page 2 of 2 - Ryan buried a big 3 in the first minute of the fourth, which started a 7-0 Morton spree.
By the time Washington answered with seven points of its own, there was only 1:52 remaining.
With a 12-point difference and just over one minute to go, Marchand sent in five reserves and the Potters were on their way to victory.
“It was a good team effort,” said Becker after listing off the contributions of many who participated in the postseason contest.
Jess Learned guided the Lady Panthers with nine points and 10 boards.
MHS 44, Normal University 42
It is a repeat four-peat for the Potters.
Morton (27-4) matched the 2005-08 teams by earning four consecutive regional championships.
The Potters won their 15th game in a row Thursday as Livingston had a team-high 16 points against the Pioneers.
Ryan connected on four 3s to supply 12 points.
Cox chipped in seven points and Emma Heisler five as Morton earned its eighth sectional berth in the last nine years.
Emma Stroyan of U-High shared the night’s top-scoring total with Livingston with 16 points.
Postseason: Morton played Ottawa Tuesday in the Washington Sectional semifinals.
A victory would send the Potters to their fifth sectional title game in the last seven seasons.
Limestone would be the opponent at Torry Gymnasium after a 49-33 win Monday over Rock Island Alleman.
The Washington Sectional champion faces the Peotone Sectional winner at 7:30 p.m. Monday in the Pontiac Super-sectional.