“ Even my Mom thought…”

Morton’s Lady Potters 45, Washington 37

Suddenly, it was last year. Suddenly, Raquel Frakes stole a ball near midcourt and sprinted away. The solo fast break came late in the third quarter and didn’t win the game right there. But it won the game because, suddenly, this much was clear: Frakes was back.

Her season a year ago ended with surgery on the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee. She began this Covid-abbreviated season insisting she was completely recovered. Well, maybe. No maybes tonight. Tonight she didn’t wear the knee sleeve that had been there for, oh, y’know, peace of mind. Tonight she just did Raquel Frakes things.

Like, the steal. Just took the ball out of somebody’s hands. And a dozen steps later, outrunning two defenders to the hoop, she curled in a layup that gave the Lady Potters their biggest lead of the game, 34-28, with 2:34 left in the quarter. I made a note: “Over. Nobody gonna catch her.”

Two minutes later, driving from the right side, the left-hander put up a running 4-footer – right-handed! – so softly that it danced on the rim for a second or two before deciding to fall in. It gave Morton a 36-30 lead going into the fourth quarter. Washington moved within three points once, but Morton won with a 9-4 run in the last six minutes.

The victory did more than even the score between the teams. Washington had beaten Morton 46-37 Saturday afternoon. That defeat, coming after a loss at Pekin, put the Lady Potters on the brink of a three-game losing streak – this for a program that over the last six years has not lost as many as three games in a SEASON. “Maybe we lost three in a row that year we went into the regional with a losing record,” coach Bob Becker said. That was the 2009-10 season when the Potters lost 11 of 13 games in one stretch but finished 18-16 with a regional championship. Since then, Morton has not lost more than six games in any season.

Washington led early and often in this one, but last with a minute to play in the first half – which is when Morton’s two red-headed left-handers took over. First, freshman Addy Engel made her second 3-pointer of the half to tie it at 19-all, then Frakes, a senior, made two free throws for a 21-19 lead that the Potters never gave up.

Let’s pause here. Let me say I have seen many basketball games. Until tonight I had never seen a game starring two red-headed left-handers who scored 28 points and helped their team avoid its first three-game losing streak in, like, forever.
Frakes has heard about the resemblance with Engel. “Even my mom thought Addy was ME,” she said, and Engel said, “Yes, people think I’m Raquel’s sister.” They well may be basketball twins, both about 5-foot-9, both starters this season, both instrumental in the turn-around from Saturday’s defeat – and both serving notice quickly tonight.

Fewer than 30 seconds into the game, Engel made a 3-pointer from the the left side. A minute later, Frakes followed with her own 3-pointer. And Morton, which had trailed Washington 12-1 in the early going Saturday, had an early 6-3 lead that set the tone for tonight’s goings-on. Engel would make three 3-pointers, and Frakes would score every way she has ever scored, mostly on slashing drives and soft finishes at the rim with either hand.

As Engel had started the game with a 3, she started the Potters’ fourth quarter with a 3 that was more important. Washington had made a 3 to move with 36-33, suggesting a threat coming, but Engel’s 3 a half-minute later was a convincing no-no-not-tonight answer to that suggestion.

Frakes led Morton’s scoring with 19, Engel had 9. Katie Krupa and Maggie Hobson had 6 apiece, Paige Griffin and Sedona McCartney had 2 each, and Cailyn Cowley 1. Now 4-2 for the season, Morton is host to Metamora Thursday night.

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