PotterDomination… Morton Seniors Standing at the ‘Pinnacle of Perfection’ in the Mid-Illini!!!!

‘Mid-Illini Dominance’
Morton’s Senior Class (2020) has seen unprecedented success this season & in their Morton Lady Potter careers.  They are approaching the ‘Pinnacle of Perfection’ in terms of Mid-Illini Conference dominance, as they look to go 56-0 in Mid-Illini Conference play over their 4 years at Morton.  Senior Captains & 4-year Varsity veterans, Lindsey Dullard & Courtney Jones knew, coming into the season, that if they could run the table one more time, they would accomplish something that no other team, or player, had done before in going undefeated all 4 years in Conference play & they made it one of their goals. So far so good for the Lady Potters as they are currently at 54 wins and 0 losses going into the final week of Conference play. Wins over Limestone (Tuesday, Feb 11th) & Dunlap (Friday, Feb 14th) would see the Lady Potters reach their goal of Perfection on Senior Night!

Morton’s Seniors have not only won all 54 of their previous Conference games, they have won them in impressive fashion, outscoring their Mid-Illini opponents by an average of 32.19 points per game over the last 4 years.  This season, through 12 games, the Lady Potters have a 31.92 point differential against Conference opponents.
Sounds impressive, even before you mention that in most of these Conference games, the Lady Potter starters only played 18-20 minutes per game (because of their ginormous leads), vs the 25-30 minutes per game of starters from several other schools.

So you might think these Lady Potters could possibly overlook a Conference opponent some night right? After all of their success, it would seem possible, if not probable.  “Not a chance!” says  Jones, who has played in all 54 victories.  “It really boils down to not looking past anyone and bringing your best effort each & every night. It may sound cliche, but we really do attack each game one at a time.  If we didn’t, we wouldn’t have the success we have had”, she explains.   Dullard echoes, Jones’ assessment & adds “We love every opportunity to compete.  We don’t care what the opponent’s record is or whatever success we have had against them in the past”.  Jones adds “It’s just what we do!”

‘A Numbers Game’
The Lady Potters have had some incredible numbers to reflect on this season & this bodes well for the posts-season. Take look at some of these interesting numbers:

1355 – Career Points so far by Lady Potter Sr Capt Guard Lindsey Dullard

735 – Number of Points scored by the Morton Lady Potters in 12 Conference games

352 – Number of Points allowed by the Morton Lady Potters in 12 Conference games

184 – Number of made 3-pointers by the Morton Lady Potters this season

150 – Sr Capt Point Guard Courtney Jones Assist total so far this season (3:1 AST Ratio)

124 – Sr Capt Point Guard Courtney Jones Rebound total so far this season

94 – Jr Forward Raquel Frakes’ current broad jump in inches

87 – So Katie Krupa’s Free Throw Shooting %

79 – Current Team Free Throw Shooting %

59 – The number of consecutive Mid-Illini victories by the Lady Potters

50 – Sr Shooting Guard Peyton Dearing’s 3-point % through 29 games (45-90)

39 – The number of consecutive games won by the Lady Potters, dating back to last season

29 – The Lady Potters are 29-0 this season heading into their Tuesday match-up with Limestone

28 – Jr Forward Raquel Frakes’ current vertical in inches

27 – The number of Rebounds per game the Lady Potters average

9 – Number of wins needed to win a 5th State Championship in 6 years

‘Post-Season Path to Redbird’
IHSA Post-Season Assignments, Seedings and Brackets have been released & the Lady Potters will not have to travel very far for Regionals. They were assigned the #1 overall seed in the Sub-Sectional and will just make the hop, skip & jump over to Washington for their Regional play. They will start Regional action on Tuesday, Feb 18 at 6:00PM vs the winner of Streator & East Peoria. A Victory there would advance them to the Regional Championship vs the Winner of Washington & LaSalle-Peru on Friday, February 21 at 7:00PM.

If the Lady Potters advance to the Rock Island Sectional, the Sectional Semi-Finals will be played Monday, February 24 at 6:00PM, with the Sectional Final on Thursday, Feb 27 at 7:00PM. There are some outstanding teams assigned to the Rock Island Sectional. 5 of the 10 Top ranked teams in the State are assigned there with #1 Morton, #5 Peoria Central, #6 Richwoods, #7 Kankakee, #8 Geneseo, not to mention State Ranked Rock Island & Washington. Another darkhorse team that could very well be entering the post-season with 20 wins is Metamora. So the winner of the Rock Island Sectional is going to earn their ticket to the Super-Sectional, which will be played at Kankakee, on Monday, Mar 2 at 7:00PM.

The State Finals will be played Friday, Mar 6 & Saturday, Mar 7 at Redbird Arena. Old foes Montini & Chicago Simeon will likely be there waiting, as they are by far the strongest teams in their respective Sectionals. We hope you follow & support the Lady Potters along their journey. Win or lose, they will be playing their hearts out for the Lady Potter Faithful!!!

‘Don Pyles Pictures’

Now at 22-0, the Lady Potters are rolling in 2020…

Just three weeks into 2020, the Morton Lady Potters have had a number of challenges thrown at them.  From facing tough, State ranked competition on the road, to battling through injuries to key players, managing #1 rankings, winning streaks and reaching milestones, these Lady Potters have passed every test to improve their season record to 22-0.

Into the Lions Den
The Lady Potters first game in 2020 was a trip into the Lions Den to face the formidable Peoria High Lions who are currently 17-3 and ranked #7 in the State of Illinois in the latest AP poll.  I think they may be underrated at #7 myself.  The Lions play fast and furious on defense and like to make their opponents uncomfortable by speeding them up and making decisions quicker than they want to.  The Lady Potters were expecting the inevitable pressure and physical play of the Lions coming into the game, but it still caused headaches for the Potters.  A season high 21 turnovers was a result.  It certainly didn’t help matters that the Lady Potters were still trying to adjust to life without their star 6th man, Raquel Frakes, who broke a bone in her left wrist vs Lincoln-Way West at the State Farm Classic in December.  Coach Becker used the opportunity to test some players that had not been put in that situation before.  Luckily the Lady Potters were able to make enough big plays down the stretch to pull away for a 48-42 win.  I think the Lady Potters players and coaching staff learned a lot from the game.

Gone Streaking
The Lady Potters have several winning streaks going on currently.  They currently have won 22 games straight this season and 32 in a row going back to their last loss (Feb 2nd, 2019 OT loss vs Fremd).  They have won 54 straight Mid-Illini Conference games in a row and the Seniors (Class of 2020) have never lost a Mid-Illini game.  They have been the model of Consistent Excellence winning all 49 of their Mid-Illini contests so far.  Through the first half of Mid-Illini Conference play the Lady Potters are 7-0 and have a 2 game lead on 2nd place teams Washington & Dunlap (both 5-2).  The Lady Potters have won the Mid-Illini Conference 5 years in a row and are going for their 6th. Their last Conference loss was at East Peoria, on January 22nd, 2016. With all of the lofty rankings, winning streaks and past success, comes a big target on your back every night.  Everyone has the Lady Potter game circled on their schedule.  Which means that the Lady Potters have to circle every game on their schedule.

A Mighty Big Milestone
If you haven’t heard yet about Coach Becker’s 500th win on Saturday, January 18th, I only have one question for you.  Where have you been?  The 500th win came in a 55-25 victory over Lincoln High School at the PotterDome.  Almost exactly 3 years after his 400th win which came on January 14th, 2017 vs Normal U-High.  This is Coach Becker’s 21st year as Head Coach of the Morton Lady Potters. His career record is currently 501 wins and 149 losses (.771).  You can view his entire bio page by clicking here: Coach Becker Bio Page. Congrats Coach!!!

The Injury Bug
Injuries seem to happen every year and this year is no exception, as the injury bug is hitting the Lady Potters hard this month.  The Lady Potters’ lost super athletic Junior guard-forward, Raquel Frakes to a wrist injury on December 28th.  She is hopeful to return January 25th.  Coach Becker has called Raquel the “Best 6th Man in the State”, which goes to show you how much he thinks of her and her role with the Lady Potters.  Less than 2 weeks later, All-State guard-forward, Lindsey Dullard get’s a concussion, 49 seconds into the game with Metamora on January 11th, on a hard foul as she was going up for a lay-up.  Lindsey missed the rest of the Metamora game, as well as the Conference road game at Dunlap and the non-conference games vs Lincoln & Galesburg.  Her return date is unknown, but will hopefully be back in a week or two if all goes well.  In the absence of these two Lady Potter stars, everyone else has stepped up and taken larger roles.  The Potters are still winning games by large margins, but one thing I have noticed is that the defense has really stepped it up. The Potters had been allowing 40.1 ppg prior to the new year and through the last 7 games are only allowing 27.8 ppg and 26.75 ppg over their last 4 games. Coach Becker’s response, when asked what his team would be like when Dullard & Frakes return, was “SCARY”.

What’s Next
The Lady Potters play Bloomington High School on Tuesday, Jan 21st at the PotterDome, then will continue Mid-Illini Conference play on Thursday, Jan 23rd at East Peoria and host Rock Island on Saturday, Jan 25th.  The Lady Potters have 9 games left before the post season begins and 7 of those games will be at home in the PotterDome.  So don’t miss the opportunity to come out and cheer on your Lady Potters!

The Morton Lady Potters are off & running to a 15-0 start…

The 2019-20 Morton Lady Potters have passed every test so far through the first 15 games of the season. Winning Championships at the Morton Thanksgiving Tournament & the State Farm Holiday Classic, these Lady Potters have done something that no other Lady Potter team has done in recorded history.  At least that I can find during the Coach Becker era.  That is in being undefeated on January 1st.

As Good as Last Year?
Through this point last year, the Lady Potters were 15-2 and were averaging 61 points per game as a team and allowing 39 points per game.  This year, on January 1st, they are 15-0 and are averaging 65 points per game  and allowing 40 points per game.  So their point differential this year is actually 3 points better than last year, but that doesn’t tell the entire story.

The Lady Potters faced some very good teams in the Nov-Dec stretch of both last season and this season.  Some of players I asked said they think last year’s schedule may have been a little tougher, playing teams like Kentucky-Ryle, Richwoods 2x, Wisconsin-Monroe and Chicago Simeon last year during the first two months. However, they have played some very good teams this year as well in Chicago Marist, Richwoods, Lincoln-Way West, Sycamore and East St. Louis.  So the strength of schedule is up for debate, but pretty close, if you ask me.

There are a few more differences though, between this year’s team and last year’s.  This year the Lady Potters are much more balanced in their scoring attack, with 6 different players leading scoring in the first 15 games. All of last year’s returning players have accepted new roles and different responsibilities and this Senior laden team is leaning on it’s experience to lead the way.

University of Alabama-Birmingham signee, Lindsey Dullard, has been exceptional in every category, and leads the team in rebounding and scoring, but has plenty of help from her teammates and has been more than willing to share the ball and the spot light.  Illinois Central College signee, Courtney Jones has transitioned well to the point guard spot this year for the Potters and has been putting up very good all-around numbers, leading the team in assists and steals and has the second most rebounds on the team through 15 games. Both players are also very smart, defensive minded players that always put the team first. These two Senior Captains have played in every Lady Potter game and practice and since joining the Lady Potters as freshmen.

Senior shooting guards Maddy Becker and Peyton Dearing have been absolutely deadly from the perimeter this year, with the duo averaging 54% (52-96) from the arc.  Dearing, an Illinois State University Soccer signee, has also utilized her speed very well this year on both ends of the court and is playing with great confidence right now.  She has made a major impact this season on the hardwood.  Becker (Captain), a returning starter from last year’s State Champion team, that had her season ended last year due to a knee injury in the Sectional Semi-Final vs Canton, is leading the team in made 3’s and brings with her a wealth of experience, toughness and basketball smarts.

Sophomore Katie Krupa & Junior Raquel Frakes have been imposing forces in the post, with Katie shooting a team leading 61% from the field and 2nd on the team in points scored.  Katie can dominate in the post and is just scratching the surface of how good she can be for the Potters.  Raquel has been a dynamic rebounder and defender.  Her bounce and athleticism allow the Potters to do things most teams can’t.  Raquel leads the team in Offensive rebounds and has a jaw dropping vertical.  Raquel injured her wrist in the Championship Semi-final game vs Lincoln-Way West, when big Brianna Woolridge fell on top of her.  Raquel is likely to miss a couple of weeks of play before returning. Get well soon Raquel!

Other regulars, returning from last year’s State Championship team, that have provided valuable minutes for the Lady Potters include Seniors Olivia Remmert (Captain) and Makenna Baughman.  Both players are workhorses that play their roles very well. Whether it’s setting the screen that allows their teammate the time to get the shot off, pulling down the big rebound, getting the deflection or tie-up for extra possessions or hitting the big shot themselves.  Olivia and Makenna have been excellent in their roles and maximum effort team players.

By The Numbers
The Lady Potters have been dominant as a team this year and all 16 players have definitely contributed to the success.  Some teams stats of interest through the first 15 games:

494 – Coach Becker has won 494 games as head coach of the Lady Potters

113 – The Class of 2020 has won 113 Varsity games (lost 7)

100% – The Class of 2020 has won 100% of their Mid-Illini Conference games (45-0)

82% – The Lady Potters are shooting 82% as a team from the free throw line (179-217)

51% – The Lady Potters are shooting 51% as a team from the field (346-680)

50 – The Lady Potters have won 50 straight Mid-Illini Conference games in a row

25/23/17/8 – The Lady Potters are averaging 25 Rebounds, 23 Field Goals, 17 Assists, and 8 Steals as a team

15 – The Lady Potters have 15 consecutive Wins to start the season

2 – The Lady Potters have won 2 tournament Championships this season (Morton Thanksgiving Tournament & the State Farm Holiday Classic).

1 – The Lady Potters are ranked #1 in the State by the AP Sportswriters

What the Players Have to Say
I had the opportunity to sit down and ask a few questions from some of the Lady Potters (Frakes, Dearing & Jones) regarding their superstitions/habits & goals.  Let me just say, these three are very superstitious.

Superstitions –

  1. All 3 have to park in the same spot before every game or they have a bad game
  2. Peyton & Raquel have to hum the National Anthem before each game
  3. Courtney needs a white hair tie & fist bump everyone
  4. Raquel has to straighten her hair on game days
  5. Peyton has to make sure she has no nail polish on
  6. There are apparently many more that probably shouldn’t be mentioned here

Goals – 

  1. Courtney says going undefeated in the Mid-Illini Conference all 4 years
  2. All three say getting back to Redbird and winning State
  3. Peyton says going undefeated all season
  4. Courtney “1 game at a time!”

Don Pyles Photographs – 

 


Summertime Hoops goes Beyond Basketball for the Lady Potters…

Many high school teenagers spend their summers poolside, relaxing, socializing and doing what typical teenagers do in the summertime. Staying up late & getting up late is still the norm for many.  The Morton Lady Potters, however, have committed their summer days and nights to getting better at basketball, passing on the tricks of their trade to future Lady Potters, challenging themselves to take on new roles for the upcoming season and community service. All of which has added up to a very busy summer, particularly when combined with other sport commitments, AAU basketball (competitive travel basketball circuit) commitments, summer jobs and maybe a little time left over with their families and friends.

Since school has ended in May, the returning players, and a batch of new varsity candidates, have been helping coach (3) week long middle school camps, participating in high school skill development sessions, playing summer league games at Illinois Central College (8 games) & in Galesburg (2 games), Summer shootouts at Mahomet (5 games) and Illinois Wesleyan (5 games) and an overnight Team Camp (8 games) at Drake University in Des Moines, IA.  All of this within the 25 allowed ‘Contact Days’ that the IHSA allows for off-season work between coaches & players.  Some days would start at 6:30am and end at 9pm.

This is nothing new to the returning players that will be seniors next season.  This has been the normal routine in June and these players know how important it is to spend these development hours with their teammates (both old and new faces). It’s part of the tradition of consistent excellence that being a Lady Potter means. It is a new experience for the players that have never played Varsity before however, and this year, that includes about half of the team.

Hall of Fame coach, Bob Becker, knows that the real key to all of these hours, that both the players and coaches share together in the summer, is about much more than the number of summer wins and losses.  The priority has never been how many summer games you win, but instead, all about individual player and team development in the off-season. The blending of the veterans and new comers.

For the coaches, it gives them a chance to see which players have the commitment level, positive attitude, determination, focus, energy level and willingness to learn, as well as which players the coaches might be able to trust in specific situations once the season starts.  Roles begin to develop and that ever so important factor of ‘Trust’ in the Sisterhood equation starts to take root.

This year the Morton Lady Potters also decided they wanted to help raise money for the St. Jude Children’s Hospital and partnered with a Mid-Illini neighbor (Washington Lady Panthers) to maximize the impact of their efforts for the cause.  Together, the two teams combined to raise over $7,800 for St. Jude!  Lemonade stands, bake sales, car washes, a Pizza Ranch night (the players served patrons) and miscellaneous efforts at the St. Jude Backyard Talent Show (BYTS) fundraiser helped raise the money.  Thanks to the teams’ efforts, the BYTS was able to raise over $18,000 this year for St. Jude!  Very worthy of a standing ovation for the Lady Potters & the Lady Panthers as well as everyone from both the Morton & Washington communities that helped make it possible. Special thanks to all the players’ families for all their support as well!

 

Lindsey Dullard Joins the Morton Lady Potters 1,000 Pt. Club!

Lost in the excitement of the Morton Lady Potters winning their 4th IHSA Class 3A State Championship in 5 years, was a significant individual milestone for Class of 2020 Junior – Lindsey Dullard.   Lindsey reached the 1,000 point plateau on March 1, 2019, in the State Semi-Final vs Nazareth Academy.  Lindsey now has 1,020 points heading into her final season with the Lady Potters. Lindsey becomes the 14th Lady Potter to join the 1,000 Pt. Club.  Congratulations Lindsey!

Lindsey (University of Alabama-Birmingham commit) had an incredible season for the Lady Potters and as one of three captains for the season (Dowell, Dullard & Jones), helped lead the team to this year’s State Championship, leading the team in 3-pt FG made (60), Steals (89), Assists (156), while scoring 418 points this season for the Lady Potters.

The Morton Lady Potters made an impact on the record books in many categories this past season, including the most points scored in a season 2,292 (beating the record set by last year’s team by 214 points).  Here are some of the Varsity Record Revisions after this season:

 

Varsity Record Revisions:

3 PT FG’s Made Career          Lindsey Dullard            159  (159-413)   4th All-Time

3 PT FG’s Made Career          Tenley Dowell              133  (133-424)   9th All-Time

3 PT FG’s Made Career          Maddy Becker              86 (86-221)         13th All-Time

3 PT FG’s Made Season         Lindsey Dullard            60                        11th All-Time

3 PT FG’s Made Season         Maddy Becker              55                        13th All-Time

3 PT FG% Season                   Maddy Becker              .404 (55-136)      12th All-Time

3 PT FG% Season                   Courtney Jones            .394  (26-66)       16th All-Time

3 PT FG Game                        Maddy Becker              7  (Simeon)         T2nd All-Time

Steals Career                          Tenley Dowell              194                       9th All-Time

Steals Career                          Lindsey Dullard            192                      11th All-Time

Steals Season                         Lindsey Dullard            89                        6th All-Time

Points Career                         Tenley Dowell              1,762                   4th All-Time

Points Career                         Lindsey Dullard            1,020                   12th All-Time

Points Season                        Tenley Dowell              558                      8th All-Time

FTs Made Season                   Tenley Dowell              105                      16th All-Time

Field Goals Made Season      Tenley Dowell              209                      6th All-Time

Field Goal % Season              Katie Krupa                   .591  (114-193)  5th All-Time

Assists Career                         Tenley Dowell              295                      T8th All-Time

Assists Career                         Lindsey Dullard            292                      10th All-Time

Assists Season                        Lindsey Dullard            156                      4th All-Time

Blocked Shots Career            Lindsey Dullard            64                        10th All-Time

Rebounds Career                   Tenley Dowell              589                      9th All-Time

 

Team Season Points              2018-2019                    2,292                   1st All-Time

Team FG Made Season         2018-2019                    844                      1st All-Time

Team Points/Half                  2018-2019                    58                        1st All-Time

                                                     2018-2019                    56                        3rd All-Time

Most Wins Team                   2018-2019                    33                        T2nd All-Time

STATE FINISH                      2018-2019         STATE CHAMPIONS

 

Records are meant to be broken!

Lady Potters Capture 5th Consecutive MI Conference & Regional Championships

The Morton Lady Potters Captured their 5th consecutive outright Mid-Illini Conference Title (3rd consecutive undefeated  Mid-Illini Championship) on Friday, February 8, 2019 with a 60-42 victory vs, Dunlap, on Senior Night at the PotterDome.  The win also extended the Lady Potters Mid-Illini win streak to 47 games.

The Lady Potters outscored their Mid-Illini opponents by an average of 37 points per game and the closest an opponent came was 18 points this season.  Now take into consideration that the Lady Potters starters averaged only 2.25 quarters of playing time in each game and you can get an idea how dominant the Potters were in Conference play this year.

As impressive as the Lady Potters offense was this year, averaging 68 points per game, their defense was even more impressive, allowing only 31 points per game.  The Potters only allowed a Conference opponent to surpass 45 points in 1 out of 14 games (Dec 11th vs Washington 65-47), though that game was a ‘Running Clock” game as the Morton  starters did not play the 4th quarter, but led 57-27 at the end of third quarter.

The Lady Potters then marched on to Regionals, which they hosted this year, and won their 5th consecutive Regional Championship, with a 82-22 win over LaSalle-Peru in the Regional Semi-Final and a 59-33 win over Metamora in the Regional Championship game.  The victory over Metamora was their 3rd of the season vs. the Redbirds, which finished their season at 21-7 and 10-4 in the Mid-Illini Conference (tied for 2nd place with Washington).

Morton now advances to the Sectional Semi-Final at Illinois Valley Central, in Chillicothe, on Tuesday, February 19th at 7:30pm. They will face another familiar opponent in this game, as the Lady Potters will play Canton for the 3rd time this year.  Canton won the first Regional Championship in their program’s history on Friday by winning the Geneseo Regional over host Geneseo 56-50.  The other two teams in the Sectional are Bloomington Central Catholic and Richwoods.

Come out and cheer on the Lady Potters, as they continue their quest to get back to Redbird Arena!

Friday, February 8th – Senior Night 2019

The PotterDome was rocking on Senior Night 2019 (Friday, February 8th), as Potter fans showed their appreciation for the six fantastic Seniors – Kathryn Reiman, Megan Gold, Claire Kraft, Bridget Wood, Addi Cox & Tenley Dowell.

Watch the Class of 2019 Senior Night Video here: https://youtu.be/pY5VcAR_fCM

The Lady Potters hosted Dunlap and locked-up their 3rd consecutive ‘Undefeated’ Mid-Illini Conference Season & 5th consecutive ‘Outright’ Mid-Illini Championship. The Lady Potters have now won 47 straight Mid-Illini games in a row.  Go Potters!!!

Lady Potters finish off 2018 by exorcizing a few demons at SFHC…

2018 is in the books and the Morton Lady Potters (15-2) have many great moments and memories to look back on. The State Farm Holiday Classic (SFHC) (which falls between Christmas and New Years Eve) has served as a mid-season test for the Lady Potters each year, dating back to the 2006-07 season.   Entering the 2018 State SFHC at 12-1, the Lady Potters had more than taken care of business on all but one occasion this season and was really only challenged twice.

Coming off last year’s 31-2 season, the Potters were a combined 43-3 since the start of the prior season and hadn’t lost a Mid-Illini Conference game in over 1,070 days.  That’s pretty good right?  Well, of course it is, but yet even with that dominance, there was still an aura of incompleteness that could be sensed from many Potter fans.  I guess that will happen when your team wins 3 straight State Championships, goes 131-10 over 4 years, but finally lose a post season game in the Sectional Final (February 2018).  Combine that broken post season streak with the fact that all 3 of those losses of that 43-3 record, came from one team (Peoria Richwoods), the most recent in a double OT loss to the Knights on November 24th, 2018 (just one month prior).

So the Lady Potters, with all their dominance, had those demons staring at them as the entered the 2018 SFHC.  The Potters had been ranked with the #3 seed in the tournament, which was arguably the strongest SFHC field of all time and one of the very best and most competitive Large School Girls tournaments in the Midwest.  #1 Peoria Richwoods, #2 Union H.S. (Ryle, KY), #4 Rock Island, #5 Bethalto Civic Memorial, #6 Chicago Simeon, #7 St. Ignatius, #8 Geneseo, #9 Chicago Kenwood  and #10 Normal Community, all came in State ranked 3A & 4A teams that were very capable of making a run in this tournament and winning the whole thing.  There were over 20 likely Division 1 players participating and even teams #11 – 16 included some good teams.  #11 Normal West will likely compete for a top 3 standing in the Big 12 Conference and #15 Canton is strong enough to finish in the top 3 of the Mid-Illini Conference this year for example.  That in itself gives you some idea of how strong the SFHC Large School Girls Bracket was this year.

As it turned out, the SFHC Seeding Committee did an excellent job with the seeding these 16 teams as almost every team finished the tournament within a spot or two of their original seed.  Seven of the eight higher seeds won in the first round and the #8 seed (Geneseo) lost to the #9 seed (Kenwood) in the only upset of Round 1.  All four of the top 4 seeds, Richwoods, Union (KY), Morton and Rock Island advanced in the Quarterfinal round, although there were some closely contested games on Day 2, which would be expected with this level of talent.  Both Semi-final games were great games with the lead changing throughout the game in both games. Many were expecting a possible Championship match-up between Morton and Richwoods, but those people were only half right.  They did get the match-up, only it was in the 3rd Place game and not the Championship game, as Morton fell to the #2 seed (Union, KY) and Richwoods fell to #4 Rock Island.  Morton outlasted Richwoods to take 3rd Place and Union, KY ran past Rock Island in the Championship Game.  All of these games were great high school basketball games to watch and showcased some of the very best teams that you will see this year.

Here are some of the Morton Lady Potter video highlights from the 2018 State Farm Classic:

 Lady Potter State Farm Holiday Classic Highlights

 

The Lady Potters played very well at times, in each of the games at the SFHC, but struggled putting together 4 strong quarters of team basketball.  In their first game vs. Wheaton Warrenville South, the Potters struggled to get the ball in the basket in the 1st quarter, but raced out to a large lead through the rest of the game with excellent team basketball.  The Lady Potters were the taller, more athletic, more experienced and better skilled team in this game and cruised to a 50-27 victory and on to the Quarterfinals 

The Potters were bolstered by Maddy Becker’s 7 threes in Game 2, but struggled to rebound the basketball through much of the 1st half vs the much taller and athletic Chicago Simeon team. They were challenged mid-game by Coach Becker to prove they weren’t as soft as they had been playing.  The Lady Potters responded and showed a lot grit and teamwork to pull past this strong Simeon team and into the Semi-final by a score of 64-54.  A side note on Simeon – The Simeon Wolverines are T-A-L-L (TALL).  Seven of their eleven players are listed over 6 foot.  To emphasize this fact to their opponent, the Wolverines enter the gym by running down the court in a single file line and takes turns slapping the back board.  That is something you don’t see every day in a girls high school basketball game.

The Semi-final game vs Union-Ryle (KY) started out great.  The Lady Potters were hitting shots, getting to loose balls and won the first two quarters with great ball movement and good teamwork.  However, about midway through the 3rd quarter the Potters went on a dry spell and the nationally ranked talent from Ryle, Kentucky took advantage of turnovers and missed opportunities by the Lady Potters.  Union-Ryle came into the tournament as the #1 team in Kentucky and #16 ranked team nationally according to MaxPreps.  They showed a little bit of why they are so highly thought of.  They reminded me quite a bit of one of the elite level AAU teams we see in the summer, with their speed, shooting and ball movement.  If you blink against those teams, they will bury you quick.  The Lady Potters stayed within 4 points until late in the game, when they were forced to foul, but weren’t able to get over the hump on this night as the Potters fell 51-62.  Both Simeon and Union Ryle provided great opportunities for our Lady Potters to improve though.  You have to play and compete with teams like that to prepare for a successful post-season. 

So the Lady Potters would advance to the 3rd Place game and face Peoria Richwoods on Championship Day (Day 4).  I heard some disheartened comments from Potter fans about the mid season matchup, but I kind of looked at it as a chance to face those demons that had haunted the Potters for the better part of 2018.  The feel of the game though was not what many expected.  It was not nearly as amped up as a Championship game, though there were quite a few in attendance.  The players on both sides seemed rather relaxed and it started out like a Sunday morning league game, rather than a matchup of two of the best programs in the State.  The Potters jumped out quick and played under control.  They hit some shots, took some shots and played three very solid quarters to take a 16 point lead on the Knights with about 6 minutes left in the game.  Then much like it did the night before against Union-Ryle, the wheels started to come off.  Players didn’t seem on the same page, and turnover, missed free throws, poor decisions and momentum turned against the Potters.  Lindsey Dullard had fouled out, Richwoods was in high frenzy mode and every call seemed to go against the Potters.  Those demons were screaming pretty loud.  However, when it looked like Morton would succumb to the pressure and frenzy, up stepped freshman Katie Krupa, who knocked down two big free throws, with 5.7 seconds left, that left the Knights only a desperation heave at the buzzer. More than anything, there seemed to be a sense of relief when the buzzer sounded.  A collective exhale from the Potter faithful.  

I’ll tell you one thing though, I don’t think 3rd Place ever felt so good to many of these Potters.  Placing 3rd in this year’s 2018 State Farm Holiday Classic is a pretty nice accomplishment, considering the 16 teams that made up this SFHC field.  What 2019 will bring, is anybody’s guess.  I think there is a sense of renewal though in the Lady Potters mindset.  A new opportunity to be the best they can be and take head on the challenges that wait ahead.  Thank you to the State Farm Holiday Classic for the opportunity for improvement.

After going 3-1 at the SFHC, the Lady Potters improve to 15-2 on the season and enter 2019 with a pretty good understanding of what they need to work on the most.  Morton next plays Friday, December 4th at East Peoria, to resume Mid-Illini Conference play.  The Potters currently lead the MI Conference with a 5-0 record.

The 2018 State Farm Holiday Classic (Dec 26-29)

The Morton Lady Potters return to the State Farm Holiday Classic (SFHC) for the 13th straight year.  This will be the first time they will be returning as Defending SFHC Champions (2017).  The Potters were Runner-up 3 times (2006, 2014 & 2016), finished 3rd in 2013 and 4th 3 times (2007, 2008 & 2011).  The Lady Potters are 30-18 all-time in SFHC tournament play.

2017 State Farm Holiday Classic Champions!

Over the past 12 years, the SFHC has been one of the most competitive and best run high school hoops tournaments anywhere and it has served like a ‘sharpening stone’ that has honed many of the great Lady Potter teams of the past.  Expect this year’s Large School Girls Bracket at the SFHC to be a grinder like none we have ever seen before.  Eight of the 16 teams are State ranked in Illinois by the AP in Class 3A & 4A:

Peoria Richwoods (14-0 AP Ranked #1 in Class 3A)

Morton Lady Potters  (11-1 AP Ranked #4 in Class 3A)

Rock Island (8-0 AP Ranked #4 in Class 4A)

Bethalto Civic Memorial (12-0 AP Ranked #5 in Class 3A)

Geneseo Maple Leafs (11-0  AP Ranked #7 in Class 3A)

Normal Community (9-5 AP Ranked #10 in Class 4A)

Normal West (9-3 AP Ranked #11 in Class 4A)

Kenwood (10-3 AP Ranked #14 in Class 4A)

and the field also includes the Union – Ryle, KY (9-0 #1 Ranked team in Kentucky), which has some national High Major D1 talent.  Look for Chicago Simeon (10-4) to make a move into the AP Class 4A rankings as well as they have posted some very good wins so far.

So those 10 teams in the SFHC LSG Bracket have a composite record of 103-16 through today.  That is pretty darn impressive and should help this 40th Anniversary of the State Farm Holiday Classic be one of the strongest ever.   There are many things that make the State Farm Holiday Classic one of the best holiday hoops tournaments in the country.

The Competition: 2018 Large School Girls Bracket

The Teams: 2018 State Farm Holiday Classic Teams

The Pairings: 2018 State Farm Holiday Classic Pairings

The History & Tradition: History of the Classic

The Venues: 2018 SFHC Venues

The Tournament Website: TheClassic.org

And about everything from the Tournament programs to the popcorn are the best you will find anywhere!  So get ready to soak up some great High School Holiday Hoops and come out to support your Morton Lady Potters!!!