Potters lose Class 3A showdown

Bryan Veginski
Morton freshman Brandi Bisping defends an inbounds play late in the fourth quarter Thursday against the Washington girls basketball team. The Lady Panthers defeated the Potters, 62-51, to win the Class 3A Metamora Regional title.

The Central girls basketball team was defenseless Feb. 18 against Morton.

The Potters ran out to a 44-8 lead by halftime on the way to throttling the Lions, 67-48, in the Class 3A Metamora Regional semifinals.

Morton’s Chandler Ryan registered 18 of her game-high 22 points in the first half.

All 12 of Brandi Bisping’s points for the No. 1 seed came in the middle two quarters.

Emily Schultz chipped in nine points for the Potters and Kait Byrne and Kayla McCormick both had six.

Already up by 14 points after one period, Morton outscored Central 24-2 in the second.

Mackenize Jenkins had 19 points for fourth-seeded Central (12-19), with 15 coming after the break.

The Potters were No. 7, a drop of two spots, in the final Associated Press 3A state poll.

Washington 62, MHS 51

The Potters’ season ended abruptly Thursday.

For just the second time in the last 10 years, Morton (26-5) did not advance to the sectional level.

Fifth-ranked Washington (24-3) won the rubber game between the rivals to decide the regional championship.

Ryan had 18 of her game-high 28 points in the fourth quarter, but the Potters could not come all the way back from a double-digit deficit for the second time in the game.

The second-seeded Lady Panthers bolted to a 12-4 lead after one period.

“They hit shots and showed patience,” MHS head coach Bob Becker said of Washington. “We didn’t really make them guard us.”

Hayley Reneau and Tia Sherman had two baskets apiece for the Lady Panthers, with the former player’s coming from 3-point range, in the first of many runs in the contest.

Morton had just five points in the first 10 minutes, 22 seconds until Ryan’s first of six treys.

The Washington advantage twice swelled to 13 points, with the latest coming with 2:29 left in the second quarter.

The Potters put together a spirited charge before halftime to flip the momentum.

A 10-0 Morton surge — on five points apiece from Ryan and Emma Heisler — made the score 27-24 Lady Panthers at the break.

“We knew a team like Morton would make a run at us — we expected that,” Washington head coach Maggie Mose said. “We kept stressing to withstand any run and I thought we did that.”

It was a brand-new game when Byrne scored the first three points of the second half.

The Lady Panthers answered with eight points in a row, including 3s by Hannah Heinz and Jess Learned.

The Potters dug halfway out of that hole at the 4:16 mark after two Schultz free throws and a Bisping field goal.

But they were shut out for the rest of the quarter  and Maddie Lee’s two buckets gave Washington a 39-31 cushion entering the fourth.

Ryan sank two triples 29 seconds apart, but the situation for Morton was  grim as it trailed 48-37 with 4:30 remaining.

Ryan, it turned out, actually was just getting started.

She drained 3s at 4:25, 4:02 and 2:04 as the Potters pulled within 50-46.

“She had a heckuva run,” Becker said of the sophomore guard.

Bisping kept Morton in a two-possession contest with a bucket with 1:50 left before an old-fashioned three-point play by Ryan.

On a missed free-throw, Ryan grabbed the offensive rebound and put it back in before converting the “and-one” opportunity.

The clutch play capped a 14-6 spurt for the Potters.

Morton, however, could not generate any more scoring in the last 1:20.

Washington made 8-of-10 free throws from that point to earn its first regional-title plaque since 2006.

Bisping had seven and a game-best 12 rebounds.

All seven of Heisler’s points came in the second period.

Learned tallied 17 points to pace the Lady Panthers. Four others had at least nine.