Morton stops Cahokia, 67-49

Bryan Veginski
Morton junior guard Beau Swinford handles the ball in the fourth quarter of the boys basketball team’s 67-49 victory Monday over Cahokia at Lincoln’s Eaton Electrical Round Robin Tournament.

Morton has a lot of reasons to carry high expectations into the 2010-11 boys basketball season.

Three cornerstone players are back and some newcomers are capable of contributing right away to a team that went 22-5 last year and won the Mid-Illini Conference title for the first time in eight years with a 13-1 mark.

First-year Morton head coach Jarrett Brown likes what he has seen so far.

“I’m really happy with their effort and I appreciate their willingness to learn,” he said.

With only two weeks to get ready for the season opener in the Lincoln/Eaton Round Robin Tournament, the Potters were attempting to keep things simple since they will not get everything in during the first 15 or so practices.

“I feel good about what we’re doing,” Brown said. “We’ll do what we do well and get through it.”

Morton possesses ample size with eight players whose listed heights are at least 6-foot-2.

“It will be interesting to see how our team quickness matches up with teams we’re going to play,” said Brown.

First-team all-Mid-Illini players Tyler Lundeen and Brett Bisping at 6-6 and 6-8, respectively, pace the frontcourt with their versatility.

Lundeen, who was awarded by the league for the second year in a row, topped the Potters a season ago with 14.3 points per game and 28 blocks.

The senior was a reliable field goal (.502) and free throw (.742) shooter last season and ranked second with five rebounds per game.

Bisping, a junior, led Morton regulars in ’09-10 with .789 free-throw accuracy, .370 three-point marksmanship and 6.0 rpg.

He added 11.3 ppg, second on the squad, and connected on 55 percent of his overall shots from the floor.

Junior guard Will Headean, who now measures 6-4, was a second-team all-M-I pick for the second straight year.

After coming back from an injury that caused him to miss nine games in December and January, Headean finished with 6.8 ppg.

Other players who can help on the interior are: senior Jon Losen and juniors Jared Holloman, a transfer from Washington, and Brock Christianson. Headean also has the ability to post up.

Not only does Morton have players like Lundeen and Bisping who can go inside-out, but athletes such as Headean can go outside-in.

Junior Beau Swinford is slotted in as the point guard.

Senior Dalton White, junior Christian Dullard and sophomore David Rossi also are backcourt players expected to provide steady minutes.

Levi Stephens, a senior, and juniors Cole Brunton, John Schoen and Ben Streeter are on the roster as well.

“They’re working hard to help each other get better,” Brown said.

The coach said the Potters’ depth, on paper, appears to be solid.

The squad’s growth since the summer has been tremendous. The players are pulling for each other.

“We’re trying to develop a mindset, an identity for ourselves,” said Brown. “They’ve really shown improvement.”

Morton will have a target on its back as the defending Mid-Illini champion and a Class 3A regional title winner the last two years.

“It should be a battle every night,” said Brown of the league. “There’s a lot of pride in the conference to win it.”

Limestone could make a big leap from fifth place in Donivine Stewart’s final season, East Peoria has two key players back, Washington should never be overlooked and Metamora appears dangerous.

The Potters return this year to the Lincoln/Eaton Round Robin Tournament. They went 6-9 there in three appearances from 2001 to 2003.

The field is loaded. Host Lincoln was 28-4 a year ago. Champaign Centennial finished first and fourth the last two years in the 3A state final. Cahokia played in a ’10 super-sectional.

“We’ll really see where we’re at right away,” said Brown. “We’re excited to get started.”

One week after finishing in Lincoln, Morton will go to Peoria for a newly-added non-conference game with tradition-laden Manual.

Drake Taphorn, Austin Voeller, Eric Waibel and Adam Kumpf were among an eight-player senior class that graduated.

Waibel and Voeller both shot better than 55 percent from the field. Taphorn was the assists leader and Kumpf topped Morton in threes, including a dramatic game-tying trey in the final seconds of regulation vs. Richwoods in the sectional semifinal.

The Potters ushered in the Jarrett Brown Era with a 67-49 victory Monday over Cahokia on the opening night of the Lincoln/Eaton Electrical Round Robin Tournament.

Lundeen led all scorers with 25 points, and Morton never trailed at Roy S. Anderson Gymnasium.

“Tyler made some big shots for us,” Brown said. “He really opened up the game for us.”

Swinford shined in his debut with 13 points, including seven in the fourth quarter. Bisping tallied 10 of his 12 in the second half.

The Morton offense played well in its first game of the year, shooting better than 50 percent from the field. There were a number of exceptional passes.

“We executed pretty well and got some shots,” said Brown.

White brought energy off the bench. He had seven of his nine points in the first half and did not miss any of his four attempts.

Brown said it was huge that the Potters took a 27-17 lead into halftime despite two of their starters sitting for large chunks of the first half.

A beautiful Headean assist to Lundeen staked Morton to a 6-2 lead at the 5:59 mark of the first quarter.

Reserve Jared Holloman completed a 7-0 Potter run with a pair of free throws to make it 13-5 with 2:58 left in the opening period.

Morton owned a big advantage at the charity stripe, going 14-for-15. The Comanches missed seven of their 13 shots there.

White had seven points in the second quarter, including a three-pointer with 55 seconds to go.

Lundeen and Bisping combined for 14 of the Potters’ 18 points in the third.

But after a Swinford basket at 3:34, Cahokia went on a 9-4 spurt to stay within 10 points with eight minutes remaining. Offensive rebounds supplied a spark.

Morton racked up 22 points in the fourth quarter, including a 9-of-10 effort at the line, and its lead was never less than eight.

The Comanches played in a 3A super-sectional last year.

Morton continues at Lincoln at 6 p.m. Wednesday against Danville.