Potters curtail Canton, Pekin

Bryan Veginski
The Morton girls basketball team, with senior Bella Jackson pictured, sported its pink uniforms Thursday as part of a fundraising effort for the American Cancer Society.

Observers not at the Canton-Morton girls basketball game Thursday should not read too much into the final score.

The Potters had a secure grip on the Mid-Illini Conference contest before the Lady Giants made a dent in the fourth quarter to create a 52-45 margin.

Morton, ranked No. 5 in the Associated Press Class 3A state poll, led by 24 points with 8:15 left on Pink Night in the Potterdome before its reserves received the vast majority of the playing time the rest of the way.

Chandler Ryan had all of her game-high 15 points in the middle two quarters for Morton.

Emma Heisler added 10 points in the third period for the Potters after hitting her first four shots of the second half to complete the squad's sweep of Canton.

Up 26-17 at halftime, Morton registered the first 14 points in the third quarter. It held the Lady Giants scoreless for 4 minutes, 33 seconds.

"The beginning of the third quarter was our best minutes," MHS head coach Bob Becker said.

While playing stout defense, the girls made 7-of-10 shots from the field.

Heisler started the spree with a basket at the 7:45 mark. Ryan and Heisler connected for 3-pointers to force Canton to use the first of two timeouts less than two minutes apart.

The drought continued for the guests while Potter Bella Jackson finalized a six-point night with a bucket preceding 2-for-2 efforts at the free-throw line by Ryan and Brandi Bisping.

Heisler hit two more shots close together, the second of which turned into a traditional three-point play, to forge a 45-21 lead for Morton with 1:56 remaining in the third quarter.

"When we slow down and work the ball, we get a lot better shots," said Kait Byrne.

Ryan's field goal at 0:45 gave her and Heisler a combined 6-of-7 effort from the floor in the period.

A Mariah Hedges trey with 14 seconds to go in the third started a 22-5 run for Canton to end the game. Hedges had 11 points on the evening.

Most of the damage done by the Lady Giants in the fourth frame, which included the final 14 points, was from their second unit.

Jackson made the most of a starting assignment with four points and three rebounds in the first quarter to stake Morton to an 11-6 lead.

Ryan had eight points in the second period, including two 3s in an 11-3 Potters' surge that made it 24-12 with 2:55 left in the first half.

Byrne had a well-rounded opening half with seven points and nine rebounds, helping Morton to a plus-8 margin on the boards.

Bisping tallied six points while Jadison Wharram scored five and matched Byrne with nine rebounds.

Multiple players took turns containing Canton's Cloe Churchill well below her season average with 12 points.

Madie Kraft made her first appearance of the season midway through the third quarter.

Emily Schultz did not play after suffering a minor ankle injury the previous day in practice.

The other 13 Morton players were in uniform. Abbie Cox hopes to participate in the Senior Night game.

MHS 57, Pekin 45

The Potters ran their winning streak to 14 games, encompassing the entire 2014 portion of their season, with a road win Friday.

Morton (24-3, 11-1) stayed tied for first place in the conference with Washington, which won on the same night at Dunlap.

The Potters can claim at least a share of their fourth consecutive M-I championship and seventh in the last 10 years with two victories in the final week of the regular season.

Morton led 42-12 at the half in Dawson Hawkins Gymnasium before Pekin made the final margin look respectable with a 20-4 push in the fourth quarter.

Four Potters were in double figures, topped by Bisping's 13 points.

Ryan and Heisler had 11 points apiece and Wharram 10. Bisping and Heisler both were 4-for-4 on free throws.

Jesse Ulrich's 16 points guided the Dragons, who just won their first league game the previous weekend.

New date: Morton will play at Dunlap at 7 p.m. Wednesday, eight days after a weather-related postponement.

Senior Night: Morton's eight-player senior class — Kraft, Kiara Stein, Byrne, Rhodes, Cox, Schultz, Jackson and Tatum Dowell — will be recognized Friday before the Potters face East Peoria.

Postseason: Morton is the No. 1 seed in the Class 3A Metamora Regional.

The Potters will play either No. 4 seed Central or fifth-seeded Metamora at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the semifinals.

The Lions face the Redbirds Monday to begin the regional.

The other semifinal Tuesday features second-seeded Washington and No. 3 seed East Peoria squaring off for the fourth time this season.

The winners will advance to the regional championship game at 7 p.m. Feb. 20.