“Don’t think, just shoot it!”

Morton’s Lady Potters 64, Bloomington 17

Ah, sweet spring. ‘Twas 65 degrees right after noon today. I thought, “Just another sunscreen-lathering day in the heartland. San Diego, eat your heart out. Suddenly we’re Florida, only without alligators.” An hour earlier, as I watched the Lady Potters do their Lady Potters thing, I thought – actually, I said it out lout – “Shoot it.”

Yea, verily, we had the best of two worlds on this day after Christmas. No blizzards, no ice, no below-zero temps. And indoors we had basketball – the first round of the State Farm Holiday Classic, which is where I heard myself advise Peyton Dearing, “Shoot it.”

The little guard had made two 3-pointers in 33 seconds, bang-bang, one from the low left corner, one from high on the right. And, next thing you know, 18 seconds later, the ball was in her hot hand again.

Unguarded again.

Looking at the rim.

Tempted.

But she didn’t shoot.

She even smiled as she passed to Maddy Becker, who made a 3 of her own.

So a girl makes two 3’s in 30 seconds and the ball comes back to her – what’s her thinking?

“I said to Maddy, like, I make them if I’m not thinking about making them and I miss them if I’m thinking about making them . . .”

On hearing that thought, the old sportswriter waited for elaboration and Ms. Dearing added helpfully, “I was thinking about making another one, so I thought, ‘I can’t shoot it, I can’t shoot it.’”

Well, ok. But I, from the far end of the building, had advised her, “Shoot it,” and now her coach, Bob Becker, leaned into our conversation to say, “Don’t think, just shoot it,” because, as an old shooter himself, he believes in keeping the hot hand hot until it goes cold.

Anyway, Dearing’s back-to-back 3’s provided a nice moment as the Potters’ raised their season record to 12-0 and took the first step toward ending The State Farm Superstition.

In the last five seasons, the Potters have won the State Farm tournament one time. That was the only year of those five that they didn’t win the State Class 3A state championship. Thus, the superstition: Win the State Farm, lose the State.

I am here to say not to fret. The way the Potters played today, they’ll will win both State Farm and State.

This game was no test. The Potters are seeded No. 1 in the large-school bracket and Bloomington No. 16. Still, the Potters did to Bloomington what they were supposed to do. Before tipoff, one expert was outrageous in his prediction: “Morton wins, 78-12.” Well, 64-17 is proof enough that the Potters are playing at an exceptionally high level that makes outrageous predictions reasonable.

They led 9-4 after four minutes.

They then scored 32 straight points in 11 minutes and 23 seconds and led at halftime 41-6. Three quarters, it was 56-11.

Their defense was formidable, their offense unstoppable.

Somewhere in there, bored by the beautiful work upon beautiful work at both ends, I decided to write about two things: 1) the Dearing episode, and 2) what was the oddest Christmas gift a Potter received?

Assistant coach Megan Hasler asked around and reported to me, “A mannequin head. Talk to Abby Steider.”

Abby Steider is a 5-foot-10 senior, a volleyball player until this season when she added basketball to her resume for the first time since eighth grade.

An old sportswriter may put a lot of questions to a lot of people for a lot of years without ever once asking what I asked Abby Steider, which was, “A mannequin head?”

“It comes with long, straight hair,” she said. “It’s a ginger. I call her ‘Cinnamon.’ She comes with utensils, too. My mom gave it to me for Christmas because I want to be a cosmetologist.”

About here, Steider’s red-headed teammate Raquel Frakes walked by and said, “She should’ve named it Raquel the Second.”

Morton will play undefeated Geneseo, the 9th seed, at 4 o’clock Friday at Normal Community High School.

Lindsey Dullard led Morton’s scoring today with 14. Maddy Becker had 10, Courtney Jones 8, Katie Krupa 8, Dearing 8, Sedona McCartney 6, Olivia Remmert 4, Makenna Baughman 4, and Cinnamon Raquel 2.


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