“ARE YOU READY TO FIGHT?”

Morton’s Lady Potters 44, Washington 38

Someone, please, take this one. Write this one. Notes, I have notes. Unreadable. Like hieroglyphics off King Tut’s tomb. Important notes have asterisks, like this ***!!***!. To earn my Milk Duds, I need tell you how the Lady Potters did it. How they did it? I have no freakin’ clue. They just did it.

I looked up with 3.9 seconds to play.

Katie Krupa, Katie Krupa!, took a seat on the bench, exhausted.

Here came Bob Becker, in a paroxysm of delight (look it up, I’m busy writing). He threw his self onto the seat next to Katie Krupa, Katie Krupa!!!

They’d done it. They’d won a sectional championship. They’d beaten their good neighbors, Washington, for the third time this season. They’d been five points down in the third quarter. They took the lead early in the fourth quarter. And with 5 minutes to play, Bob Becker crouched in front of his team during a timeout.

Five minutes to play. Up by four points.

Becker’s face was the color of his tie, flaming red.

In all-capital letters, only louder, he said to his Potters, “ARE YOU READY TO FIGHT NOW?”

Goodgawdamighty, folks, that’s called asking a question to which you know the answer, because, after using up precious Grandma-deadline minutes decoding my notes, it’s clear that the Lady Potters won this game by . . . .

Hell, I dunno how they won it.

Maybe it was a Grandma thing. When Morton’s fans seemed less lively than Joan Krupa liked, Katie’s grandmother, in the third row of the bleachers, turned to face all those fans and pumped her hands into the air, asking everyone to join her. They did. “I don’t know what got into me,” Mrs. Krupa said, happy that whatever got into her got into her.

Or maybe the Potters won it by playing unrelenting defense for 32 minutes.

Maybe by wanting loose balls more than Washington wanted loose balls.

Maybe by finding ways to score when they hadn’t scored that way all night.

Maybe by refusing to lose.

Like this: They were down 31-28 with 6:59 to play. Then came a Potters freshman Ellie VanMeenen, throwing in a 3-pointer from the right arc to tie it. A freshman! Who knew?

Thirty-seconds later, after a Washington basket, VanMeenen made another 3-pointer, this one from the left side. A freshman throwing strikes in the heat of a big moment! Who in November could see that happening in February?

A little play-by-play here to show the frantic wrestlings for possession and ways a bouncing crazy basketball can decide who wins and who loses. With Morton up 34-33 at 6:08, Washington missed a 3-pointer, Krupa rebounded it, came downcourt, missed a 3 of her own, and in the rebound frenzy, the ball squiggling away, like a greased pig at the county fair, the Potters’ Tatym Lamprecht got ahold of it long enough to earn a jump ball with the possession arrow pointing Morton’s way.

Time on the clock: 5:34. The pass in-bounds found Lamprecht on the left side and she turned all that frenzy into a beautiful rainbow of a 3 and a 37-33 lead with 5:13 to play.

Refusing to lose? VanMeenen and Lamprecht were 1-for-9 on 3’s until those moments when the game was there to be won.

When Washington committed a turnover, Morton called the timeout in which Becker asked his all-caps question to which he knew the answer was DAMN RIGHT WE’RE READY, only said teenage-girl sweetly, or even as the sophomore Izzy Hutchinson put it, “Our energy moved up to the next level, like, WHOOOOOSH.”

Lamprecht followed with another bucket earned on a I’m-not-stopping-until-I-want-to-stop drive to the hoop, putting the Potters up, 39-33, at 3:26. Washington scored quickly, but Morton — ready to fight, sir! — made it 41-35 on a Maggie Hobson put-back that was the Potters’ only rebound basket tonight. “What Coach said, we left it all out there,” Hobson said. “The best win we’ve had.”

From there it was just hang-on time, until, with 3.9 seconds to play, Becker sent in someone for Krupa to give her a moment of appreciative applause not only from Grandman Krupa but from everyone who’d ridden up I-39 in a snowstorm to see Katie Krupa, Katie Krupa!!! do Katie Krupa things.

“Katie’s been a huge part of our success in the past,” Becker said, an allusion to Krupa’s freshman and sophomore seasons (a state championship, a 37-1 season). “But this year we really asked a lot from her, She needed to LEAD this team, and she did it.”

Krupa led Morton’s scoring with 18, VanMeenen had 10, Lamprecht 9, Hutchinson 4 (and a truly astounding game defensively, handling the ball, ripping away rebounds), and Hobson 3.

Morton’s super-sectional opponent Monday nigh in Streator will be Chucago Heights Marian Catholic, now 27-8 for the season.


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