Potters complete championship run

Bryan Veginski
Simply the best: The Morton girls basketball team won twice last week to clinch the outright Mid-Illini Conference girls basketball championship. The Potters finished with an 11-3 league mark, one game in front of Canton and Dunlap. The five seniors, including Kelsey Christian, above, were honored before Thursday’s game, a 58-54 victory over Metamora. Morton has won at least nine M-I games for six consecutive seasons. The Potters’ three-game winning streak to close the regular season pushed their season record to 20-9. Morton began pursuit of its fifth consecutive regional championship when it faced No. 4 seed Limestone last night in Washington.

The Morton girls basketball team did not panic when facing a 10-point first-half deficit Feb. 10.

The Potters drew even by halftime and went on to a 58-51 Mid-Illini Conference victory over Washington.

That type of determination is a reason why Morton clinched its third league championship in the last five seasons.

The Potters swept the Lady Panthers for the season as Brooke Bisping had a game-high 19 points and Sarah Hendricks tallied 16.

“Defensively, we had a better effort in the second half,” MHS head coach Bob Becker said, “and we played well with the lead at the end.”

With contributions from a variety of sources, Washington started quickly.

About halfway through the second quarter, the guests were up 25-15.

Hendricks then caught fire, scoring 11 points in the last 4:03 before halftime to tie it at 30.

All 16 of the senior’s points came in the first half, with a three-pointer at the buzzer giving Morton a big lift heading to the locker room.

“I knew if I just kept shooting, eventually (shots) would fall,” said Hendricks, who sank four of the Potters’ eight treys.

Washington even resorted to using a box-and-one defense on Hendricks in the second half at the Potterdome.

Lexi Grayer had 10 points in the opening half for the Lady Panthers and Moriah Peterson came off the bench to deliver seven.

The third period was every bit as competitive with five lead changes and neither team was ahead by more than four points.

Tracy Frerichs and Lexi Ellis provided a spark for the Potters.

Frerichs supplied eight points in the quarter and Ellis five. They combined to make a trio of threes.

Morton turned a 47-45 edge after the third to a seven-point spread by holding Washington

to one basket in the first 5:59 of the fourth period.

After the Potters matched Lady Panther scores over the last two minutes, they recorded the hard-earned win.

Frerichs contributed 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting.

Morton shot .476 (20-of-42) from the field, while holding Washington to .407 accuracy (22-of-54).

The Potters were glad to wrap up at least share of the league crown and relieve the pressure on the regular-season finale.

“This makes Senior Night that much more enjoyable,” said Becker.

Grayer and Sara Ohlman had 12 and 11 points, respectively, to pace the Lady Panthers.

Although Washington was missing post player Jaymi Holloman, Becker said  the visitors still hurt Morton in the paint.

And Washington mixed up its defenses in an effort to slow Bisping. It worked for the first 24 minutes as she had eight points on a mere seven shot attempts.

Hendricks said the Potters did not let its youthful make-up deter it from a significant accomplishment like a M-I title.

“We play as hard as we can. Every single one played a part in it,” she said of her teammates.

MHS 58, Metamora 54: There is only one team stop the Mid-Illini.

Morton (20-9, 11-3) dashed the hopes of Canton and Dunlap for a co-title with a Senior Night victory Thursday.

Bisping, Hendricks, Kelsey Christian, Caitlin Closner and Liz Rassi all were seniors recognized.

The introductions ignited the Potters, who roared to a 34-18 lead by halftime.

The Redbirds came back, but not far enough to stop Morton from its fourth 20-win season in the last five years.

Bisping had 24 points, including 12-of-14 free throws, as the girls finished with a 6-2 record at the Potterdome.

Hendricks contributed 14 points after sinking four treys.

Nimmo totaled seven points and Caitlyn Vandermeer six.

Justine Phillips and Lauren Link combined for 36 points for Metamora.

The Redbirds, who tied for fourth place with Washington, suffered their worst conference finish since 2001-02. 

Postseason: The championship game of the Class 3A Washington Regional is set for 7:30 p.m. tomorrow. Morton plays No. 3 seed Metamora.

The Washington Regional champion faces the Morris Regional winner at 6 p.m. Monday in the Metamora Sectional semifinals.