Lady Potters (9-1) come in at #4 in first AP poll of the year…

It’s been a very good start to the season for the Morton Lady Potters and the Associated Press (AP) voters rewarded them with the #4 ranking in the first AP poll of the season.  Morton is currently 9-1 through their first 10 games and their only loss was by 3 points in Double OT against the AP #1 ranked and defending State Champion Peoria Richwoods.

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Aside that lone set-back, Morton has beaten some very good teams and made some good teams look not so good in their other 9 games.  In those games, Morton beat AP Class 4A #10 Normal Community on the road (57-52), AP Class 3A #10 Bishop McNamara (67-39), one of Wisconsin’s best teams in the Monroe Cheesemakers (57-40) and the other six teams by an average point differential of 35 points per game.  That is with the reserves playing as many or more minutes than the starters and a running clock in 6 of their 10 games (new IHSA rule when a team leads by 30 in the 4th Qtr the clock continuously runs).

So Morton really hasn’t had to  flex their muscles very often and has dominated in 8 of their first 10 games.  Probably worthy of a top 4 ranking to this point.

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So I have been asked, “If Morton is this good, how can there be 2 teams, other than Richwoods, ranked ahead of them in Class 3A?”.  Well, that is not a bad question and I was kind of curious about that myself, so I took a look.

Kankakee H.S. is ranked #2 in Class 3A.  They are 12-0 and have beaten some decent south Chicago suburb teams, but haven’t played any other highly ranked teams yet.  They have one of the State’s highest scoring juniors in Ambranette Storr, who transferred from Rockford.  Storr and what appears to be a good freshman class have come in to bolster a 23-8 team from last season that lost to Richwoods 61-36 in February.  Their early success so far this year, and Storr’s celebrity, likely have AP voters in that area excited and for good reason.  I’d say at this point the jury is still out, but upcoming Holiday tournaments will likely bring out a few teams that will test them. Definitely one to pay attention to.

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Coming in at #3 is Carterville H.S..  Carterville is located south of St. Louis (admittedly, I had to look that up) and has started the season 8-0.  Their key victory so far was over perennial power Highland H.S. 44-42.  Highland has been the southern Illinois sportswriters’ AP darling the last few years due to beating most of the other teams in their region.  So it sounds like Carterville has earned that title with their early 2 point victory over Highland. I don’t see where they have any other marquee wins yet, but they are winning most of their games by about 20 points per game. Should be interesting to follow their progress.

So the bottom line –  is it’s early and AP writers are going to have local favorites that they will vote for.  There are some very good teams in Class 3A that are currently ranked lower than Morton too.  Nazareth Academy (last year’s Class 3A runner-up) returns some very good players and they could be very good.  They will be tested at the Montini Christmas Tournament by many of Chicago’s best 4A teams.  That should give us a better idea on how good they are this year.

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Morton may get the chance to see AP Class 3A #5 Bethalto Civic Memorial and #7 Geneseo play at the State Farm Holiday Classic later this month.  The SFHC field is absolutely loaded this year and also includes: Richwoods, Rock Island, Normal Community, Chicago Simeon, Chicago St. Ignatius, Normal West and Union H.S. out of Ryle, KY (#1 ranked team in Kentucky).  I’ll have a separate story on this year’s SFHC coming up soon.

Before that though, the Lady Potters will be busy taking care of business in the Mid-Illini Conference and a non-conference contest against AP Class 2A #6 St. Joseph-Ogden on Saturday, December 22nd.

Things are just starting to get good Potter fans!!!

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“One to remember”

As far as high school basketball games go, those that witnessed the Morton Lady Potters (4-1) play the Richwoods Knights (6-0) Saturday night, saw one of the best games they will ever see.   That may be a big statement, but the Potters and the Knights put on a show in this Double Overtime thriller (64-61 Richwoods) that won’t be forgotten anytime soon by those lucky enough to see it.  Pretty much everyone paying attention expected to see Morton & Richwoods meet in the Championship Game of the 10th Annual Morton Thanksgiving Classic and they did not disappoint. I heard veteran sportswriters, sportscasters and coaches call it an “Instant Classic”, “Game for the Ages”, “Battle Royal”, and you know what? All of those descriptions are not hyperbole.  It was as fun to watch as November basketball gets, that’s for sure.

Lindsey Dullard (Jr, 6′-1″ G) 15 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal, 1 block vs Richwoods 11/24/18

There are some great rivalries in sports and many of our most memorable Champions of all time had a fierce rival.  Lakers/Celtics, Ali/Frazier, Duke/Carolina, Palmer/Nicklaus, Ohio State/Michigan for instance.  Central Illinois High School Basketball officially has their own version of “The Rivalry” with the Potters/Knights rivalry that has emerged over the past two decades and culminated with clashes over the last two seasons.

The two programs have combined for the last 4 IHSA Class 3A State Championships (Potters 2015/2016/2017 & Knights 2018) and have a combined 7 IHSA State Championships.  Morton and Richwoods also account for the last 7 Large School Player-of-the Year winners. 2018 (Cameron Taylor-R), 2017 & 2016 (Brandi Bisping-M), 2015 (Chandler Ryan-M), 2014 (Olivia Elger-R), 2013 (Sarah Livingston-M), 2012 (Maggie Cunningham-R). Morton and Richwoods have established themselves as the top programs in the area now for almost 20 years and possibly the best two programs in the State of Illinois over the last 5 years (including this season).

Courtney Jones (Jr, 5′-8″ G) 5 points, 7 rebounds (5 OR), 2 assists, 1 steal vs Richwoods 11/24/18

So what else would you expect from these two powerhouse high school programs, but a grind it out, back and forth, double OT cage fight.  Go ahead and tell these players that it is only November.  Pretty sure they would relish the opportunity to go at it with one another any month of the year, day of the week or time of the day.  They are all competitors and getting to watch this level of talent and competitor play each other in a high school setting is a real treat and very unique opportunity for local high school sports fans.

So what did this game and the first week of basketball for the Lady Potters tell us?  I think it confirmed that these Potters are a very good basketball team with some some special talent and the potential to be a great basketball team.  They made good teams look bad in blowout wins over United Township 68-16, Champaign Central 62-32 and Bishop McNamara 67-39. They rallied to beat a very good Class 4A team (Normal Community) in a true road game and they pushed the defending State Champion with 4 returning starters to 2OTs, again rallying from 9 down late in the game, in a game they had a great chance to win, twice.

Maddy Becker (Jr, 5′-4″ G) 12 points, 3 rebounds, 1 steal vs Richwoods 11/24/18

It often takes a team your equal, to really expose what you need to work on the most.  Playing and beating teams by 20-40 points doesn’t tell you all that much about yourself.  I think Morton learned from the tough games that they have things to work on and what those things are.  They know they need to play stronger, tougher, attack more often, dig down more defensively and that they need to raise their level of play to another level.  I do not doubt that they will, but they have to put in the work.  They also learned that Richwoods is beatable and maybe learned some things that they can expose the next time they meet.

So what’s next for the Lady Potters?  Monday – Thursday will be practice days and then they will host Canton for their first Mid-Illini Conference game of the year.  I expect Canton to be a contender in the MI this year.  Guard heavy team that returns a Senior class of talented players and several high scoring Juniors that can be a very dangerous scoring threats.  They will attack the basket and have a couple very good perimeter shooters.  They are not a very big team in the post, but they are very experienced and scrappy. The Lady Potters will have a week to prepare for this game and then travel to Monroe, WI to take on the Monroe Cheesemakers.  We will have a detailed story on that game later in the week that will break them down, but they are expected to be a very good team with some outstanding next level players.

So hang on Lady Potter Fans.  This fantastic voyage is just getting started!!!

Morton Lady Potter Thanksgiving Tournament

The Morton Lady Potters’ season kicked off Tuesday night at Normal Community High School, where the Potters showed some fight and determination. Coming back from 12 points down in the 3rd quarter to catch and over take a very good, IHSA Class 4A State ranked, NCHS Lady Iron team 57-52, the Potters showed some early grit.  Morton looked like a team that is just beginning to learn how all their pieces work together and no doubt in search of the perfect chemistry, but oh my, do they have some great pieces!

If you missed this great game, never fear, as it was only the first game of the season and the Lady Potters will play 4 more, Friday, Nov. 23rd – Saturday, Nov. 24th, at the PotterDome, at the Morton Thanksgiving Classic.  The Tournament field is filled with some great talent and will be a good challenge for the Lady Potters.  Teams include United Township (E. Moline), Champaign Central, Bishop McNamara and Peoria Richwoods (defending Class 3A State Champions).

Come out and get a look at the 2018-19 edition of the Morton Lady Potters and see what you think.  A great way to see some great holiday basketball, right here, in your favorite gym, the PotterDome!!!

Lady Potters (30-1) Capture their 4th Consecutive Regional Championship in Herscher

The Morton Lady Potters improved their season record to 30-1 and secured their 4th Regional Championship in as many years on Thursday, February 15th.  Morton used swarming team defense and efficient offense to jump out to a 46-2 lead on the Regional host, Herscher High School Tigers (25-6) and cruised to a 84-32 victory in the Regional Championship game.

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The victory came 2 nights after dismantling the Pontiac Indians (12-13), in the same gym, by a score of 71-18.  So yes, you could say that Morton passed the Regional test this year with flying colors. It did take 808 miles of driving to complete the task, but the rides home were memorable and it is now part of this journey that the girls will never forget.

Now the Lady Potters move on to the next step in their quest for an unprecedented 4th consecutive State Championship, which is Sectional play.  Morton was assigned to the Dunlap Sectional and will play the winner of Canton and Quincy Notre Dame on Tuesday, February, 20th at 6pm.

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Morton Lady Potters (25-1, 11-0) embracing the ‘January Grind’

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The Martin Luther King Tournament (MLK), which is organized by Galesburg High School, has traditionally provided a great experience for the Morton Lady Potters (25-1).  Traditionally it falls at about the midway point of the high school basketball season, in what has been called the “January Grind”.  All veteran players and coaches are familiar with the January Grind, which refers to the ‘Dog Days’ of the long high school basketball season. Teams are tested for their commitment level, sustained focus, team chemistry, self evaluation and ability to handle any adversity the Grind has to throw at them.

The MLK, which is also sometimes referred to as the “Galesburg MLK Classic”, allows teams to see a variety of competitive teams, which bring with them a wide range of style of play in the middle of their season.  There are teams that like to push the pace of play, teams that want to slow you down, teams that run a lot of set plays and teams that prefer to free lance and break down defenses with their athleticism and constant motion.  Being able to play against many different types of teams has always been beneficial to the Potters, as it has helped prepare them well for post season play.

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This year, the Lady Potters faced LaSalle Peru, Lincoln, Peoria High (Central), Peoria Notre Dame and Galesburg High School.   Much like the SFHC, each team presented a different challenge and a different style of play.  All five opponents brought toughness and varying levels of experience and competitiveness.  LaSalle Peru was young and less experienced, so they tried to slow down the pace of play on both ends of the court.  Lincoln and Central both had a mixture of youth and veteran players, but had very different styles of play.  Lincoln played quickly on offense and was more patient and sat back defensively.  Central was the exact opposite, playing slower  and patiently on offense and applying high pressure, in your face tough, physical defense. Notre Dame and Galesburg both tried to run their set offenses and play physical defense against the Lady Potters.

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The MLK is rather unique in that games are played over two weekends, typically with one game during the week and is played at a variety of locations.  Morton hosted their first two games on Saturday, January 13th vs LaSalle Peru and Lincoln.  Then travelled to Peoria High on Monday (Martin Luther King Jr. Day) to face the Central Lions.  The Potters then played at Galesburg High School, on Saturday, January 20th vs. Peoria Notre Dame & vs. Galesburg High School.  Because it is a week long tournament, Morton also squeezed in Friday night Mid-Illini Conference games on both Fridays.  The end result was 7 victories for the Lady Potters in 8 days.

Jan 12th (Fri Night) – Morton defeats Metamora 52-43
Jan 13th (Sat Morning) – Morton defeats LaSalle Peru 52-16
Jan 13th (Sat Afternoon) – Morton defeats Lincoln 58-45
Jan 15th (Mon Afternoon) – Morton defeats Peoria High 59-51
Jan 19th (Fri Night) – Morton defeats East Peoria 74-21
Jan 20th (Sat Afternoon) – Morton defeats Notre Dame 56-22
Jan 20th (Saturday Night) – Morton defeats Galesburg 65-46

 

 

Are you starting to grasp the January Grind concept? Well the Lady Potters know all about it and prepare for it. It’s part of the process of building mental toughness for deep post season runs. Not only do you face 7 teams in 8 days at the MLK tournament, you face 7 different officiating crews. Sometimes the officiating crew has as much impact on the outcome of the game as the style of play of your opponent. Some crews are consistent in their officiating, some aren’t. Some allow physical play and hand checking, some don’t.

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Some call three seconds in the lane, carrying and traveling (according to the rules) and some don’t. Good teams learn to adjust the way they play accordingly as the officials set the tone for the style of play they allow. Great teams overcome inconsistent officiating and take the game away from the officials. The Lady Potters saw some very good officiating and some suspect officiating over the course of the Jan Grind, but in all cases they played their game and didn’t let the officiating, good or bad, get in the way of winning basketball games in January.

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The Lady Potters finished January off with two more big Mid-Illini Conference wins with victories over Dunlap (59-44) on Pink Night at the Potter Dome and then at Pekin on January 27th (77-33). Pink Night 2018 was an extraordinary night.

With the help of the Morton Community, the Lady Potters raised over $6,000 for the Illinois Cancer Care Foundation. 650 Pink Night t-shirts were sold by the team and generous donations from local businesses and individuals accounted for the large sum that was donated. Morton’s State Champion Band performed and the Morton Cheerleaders and Dance team, along with over 1,000 fans made it an electric night! Tenley Dowell was also honored, before the game, for scoring her 1,000th point during the MLK tournament.

Energized by the crowd, the Lady Potters played a great game on both ends of the court. Curiously enough, Dunlap’s coach (Heather Cassidy), elected to press and pressure the Lady Potter reserves the entire 4th quarter with her starters and even called a timeout in the final seconds, but it didn’t seem to matter much. The Lady Potters still won the game by 15 in a game that all 14 Morton Lady Potters got significant playing time and experience.

So now with the January Grind behind them, the Lady Potters will look to keep improving day-by-day and attempt to play their best basketball of the year in February and March. All those games in November, December and January are part of the building process. I think the Lady Potters are about ready to make their March into March.

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Lady Potters (19-1, 8-0) are improving…

So here is the deal, the Morton Lady Potters, ranked #1 in Class 3A by the Associated Press (AP), are 19-1 on the season, 8-0 in the Mid-Illini Conference, State Farm Holiday Classic Champions, and of course 3x Defending State Champions that have won 16 games in a row.  Most of them by at least a dozen points.  They have run through the first half of the Mid-Illini Conference season like a hot knife through butter and haven’t lost a Mid-Illini game in 722 days (January 22, 2016).  That would equate to 27 straight conference wins. That’s pretty impressive, but I heard a critic say the other day – “well Morton is in a weak conference, so they don’t have to play anyone”.  Morton’s dominance probably triggers that thought in people outside the conference, because well, what else are they going to say.  There are some ways to measure how good Morton has been so far this season however, and I’ll lay them out for you.

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I really can’t say how good some of the other Class 3A teams from around the state are, because I haven’t seen many of them play this year and other than the AP and MaxPreps, there really isn’t another comparison method, other than traveling around the state to watch them all play.  MaxPreps is a national high school ranking service that use a statistical computer formula to rank teams from all across the country (somewhat like the BCS ranking computer formula in college football)  and results are filtered down to provide rankings by State and by Class. Their formula weighs wins and losses and factors in a strength of schedule (who you play, your opponents ranking and your opponents strength of schedule).  Not exactly an exact science, but other than the AP rankings and the “eyeball test”, it’s the best we got.

So what does MaxPreps have to say about the Morton Lady Potters, the teams around the State and the Mid-Illini?  Well as of their last ranking 1/12/18 (rankings are updated on Tuesdays and Fridays throughout the season), MaxPreps had Morton as the #3 team (regardless of Class) in Illinois and #2 team in Class 3A. Peoria Richwoods at 18-1 (Morton’s only loss) is ranked #1 in the State regardless of Class.  Rounding out the top 10 in Class 3A include; #3 – Nazareth Academy 19-1 (unboundaried Chicago private school), #4 – Effingham 14-1, #5 – Charleston 17-1, #6 – Breese Central 17-2, #7 – Glenbard South (Glen Ellyn) 12-1,  #8 – Civic Memorial (Bethalto) 18-1, #9 – Kaneland (Maple Park) 13-2 and #10 Sycamore 16-3.

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Now here is the part of the MaxPreps rankings that I found most interesting in Class 3A.  Ranked #11 is Dunlap, #12 is Canton, #14 is Lincoln, #17 is Washington, #24 is Metamora. So there are currently 5 Mid-Illini teams ranked in the top 25 in MaxPreps Class 3A rankings.  That does’t sound like the Mid-Illini is that weak to me.  Here is how some of the other Lady Potter opponents this year rank in Class 3A: Galesburg #47, Champaign Central #48, LaSalle Peru #88, Limestone #105, East Peoria #125 out of 168 ranked Class 3A teams in Illinois.  Class 4A opponents: Normal Community #6, St. Ignatius #25, Normal West #39, Peoria High #40, Bloomington #52, Pekin #92 out of 169 ranked Class 4A teams in Illinois.

Now I’ll repeat, rankings before March 4th mean absolutely diddly-squat.  However, I think that it helps us see that maybe Morton has been tested a little bit and maybe the Mid-Illini Conference is not as “weak” as I heard someone profess the other day. Also, do you remember the Monroe Cheesmakers that battled the Lady Potters back at ICC on December 2nd?  They are currently 13-2 and ranked #3 in Wisconsin’s Division 2 AP Poll and have only lost to Wisconsin’s #1 team (Beaver Dam) other than their loss to the Potters. Wisconsin has 5 Divisions with Division 1 being the largest schools and Division 5 being the smallest schools. Let’s factor that into our eyeball test.

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Now that’s the good news for Morton’s Mid-Illini opponents (they are not that bad).  The bad news for them is that Morton is improving!  Game-by-game and day-by-day the Lady Potters are getting more familiar with the system that IBCA Hall of Fame Coach Becker and his staff are implementing.  They are getting better at the little things that make a big difference.  They are getting better at communicating on offense and defense.  They are getting better at finding the open player and they are getting better at competing.  Just what Lady Potter opponents wanted to hear I’m sure, but it’s the truth.  This team was better in December than they were in November and are visibly better in January than they were in December.  That’s what my eyeball test is telling me.  Now we want see what they become in February and March!!!!

 

 

Morton Lady Potters (14-1) win 1st State Farm Holiday Classic

The Morton Lady Potters had a historic State Farm Holiday Classic (SFHC) experience this year. The SFHC is a 64 team tournament (32 Girls teams/32 Boys teams) and is a 4-day gauntlet of games, sponsored by State Farm, in Bloomington/Normal.  The tournament attracts some of the best girls & boys high school basketball teams in the state and the Lady Potters have participated in the State Farm Classic each year, since 2006.  Prior to this year, the Potters had been in the Championship game three times (2006, 2014, 2016).  Morton placed 2nd in each of those years and had never hoisted the Championship trophy… until now!

 

The Lady Potters started tournament play in historic fashion, by defeating Chicago North Lawndale (86-26).  They set all-time tournament records in their game vs North Lawndale for the ‘Most Points Scored in a Qtr (36pts)’, ‘Largest Margin of Victory (60 pts)’, and the ‘Most Consecutive Points Scored (48)’.  This was the same school, but not the same team, that Morton had faced twice two years ago.  Their first meeting with North Lawndale happened to be in the 2015 SFHC, where the two teams set another record for the ‘Longest Game Ever Played’.  That was a 4 OT thriller that went North Lawndale’s way.  Morton then beat North Lawndale, later that season, in the State Championship game.

 

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In the Quarter Finals, the Potters faced a young, athletic and feisty team in the Normal West Wildcats.  With starters Josi Becker and Caylie Jones battling early foul trouble, Morton got a big lift from their first reserve players that helped wear down the Wildcat regulars.  Despite a few threats from the Wildcats, the Lady Potters maintained a lead though the entire game and Josi Becker helped cement victory making 8 of 8 free throws to close the game.  Tenley Dowell lead the Potter scoring with 17 points, and Josi Becker and Lindsey Dullard each added 10 points for the Potters, while Caylie Jones & Courtney Jones, combined for 13 points and 13 rebounds to help Morton defeat Normal West 63-49.

 

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The Lady Potters would next play the Chicago St. Ignatius Wolfpack in the Semi-Final game.  St. Ignatius is a well coached, high energy, tough Class 4A team from the Chicago area and they were not about to back down against the Potters.  Every time Morton would begin to make a run, St. Ignatius would answer and did just enough to to hang around going into the final quarter.  Morton had enough of a lead in the closing minutes to play keep away from St. Ignatius and defeated the Wolfpack 51-38 to advance to their 3rd State Farm Holiday Classic Championship game in the last 4 years.  There they would face their first opponent of the year in the Normal Community High School Lady Iron.

 

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Normal Community had beaten Peoria Richwoods 53-47 in their Semi-Final and have been playing very well throughout the tournament.  Anchored by a strong senior class, lead by Summer Stoewer (Sr), and Division 1 prospects Maya Wong (So), Abby Feit (Jr) and Kylee Schneringer (So), the Lady Iron are a formidable Class 4A opponent.  The Lady Potters know these players well and they know the Lady Potters as well.  The Lady Iron Seniors had never beaten Morton before and it was definitely on their bucket list.  Feit, Wong and Schneringer play on the same summer team and are great friends with Courtney Jones and Lindsey Dullard, so there were those bragging rights on the line as well.

 

The Lady Potters have the experience of playing in a lot of big games however, and were determined to not let this opportunity slip away from them.  The Seniors have had to settle for the SFHC 2nd place trophy twice before and watch someone else hold up the grand SFHC Championship trophy.  The Potters came out with laser focus in the first half of the Championship game and accurate shooting, unselfish play and execution on defense lead to a 15 point halftime lead.  The Potters extended the lead to as much as 22 points, early in the 2nd half, but much like the first game of the season, the Lady Iron started chipping away and building momentum.  Once the momentum shifted, every call seemed to go against the Lady Potters and in favor of the Lady Iron and Maya Wong, who had only 1 point until late in the 3rd Qtr woke up, scoring 10 of her 11 points in the final 10 minutes of the game.

 

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Normal battled all the way back to within 5 points late in the game, but Morton stayed composed through the adversity and did what 3x State Champions do.  They only took good shots, trusted in their game plan and in each other, and made free throws and layups in the game’s closing minutes to capture their first ever State Farm Holiday Classic trophy, winning 61-56.

 

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There were a lot of heroes in the game for both teams and the Lady Potters had a monster stat line from Sophomore Lindsey Dullard, with 18 points, 10 rebounds, 3 blocks.  Caylie Jones made 6 of 7 attempts for 13 points and added 4 assists while taking 2 charges defensively.  Tenley Dowell added 12 points, including a huge drive for a layup late in the game that stalled Normal’s ferocious comeback attempt and was selected to the SFHC All-Tournament Team.  Josi Becker once again stepped up and knocked down huge free throws at the end of the game to secure the win.  Becker finished with 10 points, 5 rebounds & 5 assists and Kassidy Shurman hit 2 big threes.  Abby Feit (Normal) led all scorers with 19 points, but the Potters limited the University of Evansville recruit to only 3 rebounds.

 

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Once again the Morton Community and Potter fans really stepped up big time to come and support the Lady Potters in the Championship game and throughout the tournament.  The Lady Potter “Storm Troopers” braved freezing temperatures and terrible travel conditions to come cheer on the Potters.  Thank you to all Potter fans for supporting the girls!

 

Morton Lady Potters Start Season 10-1 (5-0 in M.I. Conference)

 

 

 

Winning Mid-Illini Conference Championships in 8 of the last 10 years, the Morton Lady Potters have proven to be the team to beat for the past decade.  They have been particularly dominant the last 3 seasons where the Potters won 12 games, 13 games and 14 games in 2015, 2016 and 2017 respectively.  Last Season (2017), the Potters were a perfect 14-0 in the Mid-Illini and have picked up where they left off by starting 5-0 this year.  The current group of Seniors (Class of 2018) are 44-3 (and counting) in conference play over the course of their Morton careers, and the Lady Potters have won 24 straight Mid-Illini Conference games.  The Lady Potter Varsity Sophomores

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have never lost a conference game and the Juniors have only lost 1 conference game in their Varsity careers.  So you can understand if winning conference games is on the ‘to be expected list’ if you are a Morton Lady Potter.  Expected, but not taken for granted.

These Lady Potters don’t really pay attention to stats like these fortunately.  They have had this level of success, because they take the perspective that anyone can beat you on any given night if you don’t lace them up tight and come to play every game (a lesson learned in their last Mid-Illini Conference loss at East Peoria on January 2nd, 2016).  I believe that loss to East Peoria, has paid big dividends in terms of mentally preparing for every conference game since then.  The fact that they haven’t lost a Mid-Illini game since that time is the basis for my theory.  Of course the Lady Potters have also won 3 State Championships over that same period of time, so they are not only beating conference opponents, but their conference results have been particularly impressive.

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So imagine you are a Mid-Illini Conference team and you see that your next game is against the Morton Lady Potters.  Unless you played on the Varsity team at Canton in the 2014-15 season or the Varsity team at East Peoria in 2015-16, you have never beaten Morton.  Morton is the 3x Defending State Champions and are 110-9 since over the last 3 seasons and some change.  They are hailed each year as the Conference favorites and have a roster full of conference superstars.  This is kind of like playing UConn if you are Northeastern Nevada State.  Well I imagine you could take 1 of 2 approaches to your game against the Lady Potters.  You could conclude that you are definitely outmatched and just hope that the coach doesn’t make you run a wind sprint for every point that you lose by, or you could make it your Superbowl game.  By that I mean you play above and beyond the energy level you normally play at, with more passion than you have ever played with and accept the mission impossible of knocking off the invincible Morton Lady Potters.

As far as I have witnessed, since the start of the 2016 season, most conference opponents have taken the later approach.  The more Morton wins, the more teams want to beat them and the target on their back grows larger and larger.  Teams come out screaming out of the locker room, like a band of banshees, and play the first 5 minutes of the game like they have never played before.  Then at some point in the game, Morton displays several bursts of runs that put the game out of reach and ‘voila’, same result as the last half dozen times you faced the Lady Potters.

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These Mid-Illini teams are not bad teams.  To the contrary, there are some very good teams in the Mid-Illini that have won preseason tournaments and have won more than a majority of their games. Dunlap, Canton and Washington could be Sectional level teams.  They are good, but they just aren’t Lady Potter good. Morton is so strong at every position and they bring several players off the bench that would start for about any other school in the conference.  If it wasn’t for the political jockeying that goes on in the Mid-Illini coaches meeting at the end of the season, where each coach is lobbying to get one of their own players on all-conference teams, the 1st and 2nd Team All-Conference selections would be made up of at least half of the the Morton Lady Potters. But I’ll digress (for now).

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Morton played Canton at Canton on Tuesday, December 19th.  Canton came into the game undefeated at 10-0 and feeling pretty good about their chances against the Lady Potters.  This Canton team was definitely using the 2nd approach mentioned above and were set to prove that they were ready, willing and able to take down the 3x Defending State Champs.  They packed their local gym (Alice Ingersol Gymnasium) for the game with rowdy townsfolk, parents and students , who didn’t want the to miss history in the making.  The local news reporter and photographer were in attendance, ready to document the triumphant night.  The night that the Canton Little Giants took down the State Champs.

Almost anyone that has had the ‘pleasure’ of playing Canton in Canton, knows that Canton gets some “benefits of the doubt” from the local officials. Those that their opponents rarely get.  In fact they are pretty infamous for this advantage and I have heard many people say that advantage is worth at least 10 points for Canton.  So if you are going to beat Canton, in Canton, you better be at least 11 points better and be up by double digits going into the 4th quarter.  Otherwise, the Canton factor can come into play.

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Like most teams the Lady Potters have played this year, Canton jumped out of the gates playing with a lot of passion and energy.  They played Morton pretty close to even through the first half in fact.  They launched a lot of three pointers, and drove out-of-control to the basket time after time, hoping to get a foul called if their miracle shot didn’t drop.  Credit the Potters for staying composed and defensively efficient through the periods that Canton put together runs.  Both halves started with the officials (one in particular) rewarding Canton players for out of control play and penalizing the Potters in return.  Instead of letting that bother them, the Potters played their game.  Great ball movement, timely shooting of predominantly smart shots, unselfish play and solid defense eventually allowed the Lady Potters to pull ahead by 20 and they coasted through the final quarter.  Alas, the Canton faithful were foiled again by a score of 62-44.

Earlier that week, the Potters played an upbeat Pekin Lady Dragon team, that, like Canton, and Dunlap, came out with a lot of energy and were ready to take down the champs. They played the Potters even through the first 5 minutes. Then the lady Potters put on a couple 20 point runs that put away the Lady Dragons by the end of the 3rd quarter.  The final score was 72-36.

Next up for the Lady Potters is the State Farm Holiday Classic (in Bloomington Normal), which starts on December 27th and runs through December 30th.  This is a tournament that the Lady Potters have never won, but placed 2nd in last year and in 2015.  Always one of the most competitive tournaments in the country, this year’s State Farm Holiday Classic is once again loaded with talented teams.  Morton will start play

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at 3pm on December 27th and face a familiar rival in Chicago North Lawndale.  You may remember that Chicago North Lawndale was the Potter’s opponent in the 2016 State Championship game.  Interestingly enough, the Lady Potters had lost to North Lawndale in 4 OTs in the State Farm tournament earlier that season.

Merry Christmas Lady Potter fans!!!!  Enjoy family and friends over Christmas and then make the short car ride to Bloomington Normal on for the State Farm Holiday Classic and cheer the Potters to victory.  There should be a lot of very good basketball games played at the tournament this year.

 

Lady Potters have fun visiting Restmor Residents…

The Morton Lady Potters basketball team had a fun day on Saturday, December 10th, visiting residents at the Apostolic Christian Restmor nursing home.  The team had a Q&A session, shared cookies and coffee and helped facilitate a lively round of Bingo.  Both the team and residents enjoyed the experience.  This isn’t the first time the team has visited Restmor and likely won’t be the last as Restmor has some avid Lady Potter fans residing there.


Senior Caylie Jones had this to say about the visit to Restmor; “It is always special to visit the wonderful people at Restmor.  They all seem so happy to see us and we really appreciate their support of our team.”  Senior Kassidy Shurman added; “I think everyone at Restmor is always excited about spending time with us as young people and get a kick out of our smiles.  It’s a great feeling being able to spread some joy to the residents there.”

 

Josi Becker Signs LOI with Illinois Central College…

Watch Video of: Josi Becker Signing Day

Josi Becker has had her eye on Illinois Central College (ICC) for some time now, and ICC has had a lot of eyes on Josi as well.  ICC’s head coach Karrie Redecker made Josi aware of their interest quite a awhile ago and have been watching her closely throughout the summer and through the first 6 games of her Senior season.  Josi decided it was high time that she made it official and on Saturday, December 2nd, just hours before the Lady Potters played Monroe at the ICC CougarPlex, Josi signed her Letter of Intent to attend ICC in the Fall of 2018 and play basketball on scholarship for Redecker’s Cougars.

Josi is a pretty private person and didn’t want to make big to-do about the signing, but she expressed  how grateful she is for this opportunity and thanked all her teammates, coaches, fans and most importantly her family for helping her to become the person she is now.

ICC is getting a great player and an OUTSTANDING person.  ICC has won 6 National Championships in their history and if anyone can help win them a 7th, it’s Josi Becker.  If Josi knows anything, and she knows a whole lot, it’s how to win Championships!

You can watch the signing day highlights here:  Josi Becker Signs with Illinois Central College

Congratulations to Josi!!!!

What-a-Game! Lady Potters move to 5-1 with 58-57 win over Monroe Cheesemakers…

The Morton Lady Potters bounced back big time from their loss over Peoria Richwoods last week, in the Championship game of the Thanksgiving Classic.  Three days of practice in the Potterdome, concentrating on improvement and refocusing their commitment to excellence, had the Potters ready and revved up to face another opponent.

Unfortunately for Metamora, they had the misfortune of having ‘Next’.  The Lady Potters took out some of their frustration at Metamora 50-27, in their first Mid-Illini contest of the season, on Thursday night.  Metamora was down 10-0 before they knew what happened in that game and Morton got a little of their swagger back.  The Potters were powered offensively by balanced scoring attack, with four players in double digits (Lindsey Dullard 12, Tenley Dowell 11, Josi Becker & Caylie Jones with 10 apiece).

On Saturday night, the Lady Potters hosted the mighty Monroe Cheesemakers from Monroe, WI on a neutral court (Illinois Central College).  The Cheesemakers return 3 starters from their 2017 State Final 4 team, including University of Wisconsin recruit, 5′-9″ All-State Jr. guard Sydney Hilliard (19.2 ppg, 8.3 rpg), 6′-1″ All-Conference Sr. forward Sydney Mathiason (11.6 ppg, 7.9 rpg) and 5′-8″ All-Conference Jr. guard Emily Benzschawel (12.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg). Monroe is well coached, disciplined and talented. Much like our Lady Potters.

In fact, Monroe shares a lot of similarities with Morton.  The towns and schools are about the same size, both teams are red and white, both teams have two sets of sisters, both teams have coaches with two daughters on their team, both teams have been perennial powerhouse teams, with multiple trips to the State Championship game in recent years and while Morton is the “Pumpkin Capital of the World”, Monroe is the “Swiss Cheese Capital of the U.S.”.

On this night, the Potters were better than the Cheesemakers, but the outcome was not decided until the final seconds and the lead changed several times in the final minutes of the game.  It was a fun game to watch, with two talented teams going at each other, back and forth on every possession.  These were two State Championship level teams going toe to toe on December 2nd.  Every shot was a BIG shot and every possession was crucial to the outcome of the game.

The Lady Potters lead 29-23 at the half and had leads of 10 points at different times in the 2nd half, but the Cheesemakers made big shots of their own, particularly their star big shot guard (Hilliard).  Monroe took the lead 53-52 with 1:21 remaining in the game.  With Both teams in the bonus, most of the final quarter, Tenley Dowell hit 2 free throws to give Morton the lead back, then Monroe hit 2 on the next possession for a 1 point Monroe lead, then Courtney Jones sank 2 more with 28 seconds left to put Morton up 56-55.  Game winner right?  Nope.  10 seconds later, Hilliard drives and hits a pull up jumper to put Monroe up 57-56.  Not over yet though.  On the next possession (the final scoring possession) Morton gets the ball knocked out of bounds with 9 seconds left.  Monroe Head Coach (Sam Mathiason),  calls a time out to instruct his players what he wants to do to stop the Potters.  The Potters used the timeout wisely and Coach Becker had the perfect out of bounds play drawn up, which the Lady Potters executed to perfection, with Lindsey “Lefty” Dullard scoring, with a left hand layup, with 8 seconds on the clock and the Potters applied 8 seconds of defense to cause a turnover by the Cheesemakers that sealed their fate and a 58-57 Potters victory.

Dullard finished with 18 points, Dowell 16, Caylie Jones 10, Josi Becker 5, Courtney Jones 4, Peyton Dearing 2, Megan Gold 2 and Kassidy Shurman 1 on a night that every point, assist, rebound, screen, steal and hustle play mattered.  On this night, the Lady Potters learned  when they play as one, execute their roles, communicate, play hard, and compete, they can be pretty good.  Hats off and good luck to the Cheesemakers, who I expect will make a return trip to the Wisconsin State Tournament this year.  If the Lady Potters use this game as a stepping stone to improvement, I expect their chances are pretty good to do the same in Illinois as well.

 

 

Lady Potters learn from Richwoods on Day 2 of MLP Classic…

The Morton Lady Potters (3-1) were beaten by Richwoods (5-0)  45-53 in the Championship game of the 2017-18 Morton Thanksgiving Tournament.  As expected, Richwoods was big, and long and quick and made very few mistakes against the Potters.  They attacked Morton throughout the game on both ends of the court.

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Tied at haftime, Richwoods quickly put up 7 unanswered points,  early in the 3rd quarter, which separated them from the Potters, and made big shots to sustain that lead through the 2nd half.  While all of Richwoods’ starters are very good, headline player, Cameron Taylor, may be the best post player Central Illinois has seen in many years and she played a big role in the outcome of the game.  She is a player that no other team in Class 3A can boast.

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What could Morton have done better?  Well, to start with, they could have been more patient and efficient offensively.  They shot 5 for 25 from the perimeter.  Let me repeat that… 5 for 25 from the perimeter.  Now Richwoods’ harassing defense probably contributed, to some extent, to the low shooting percentage from the arc (20%), but if they shoot 8 for 25, they likely win the game.  This was also the first time the Lady Potters had faced the Richwoods zone and the Lady Potters had spent most of their practice time, the prior week, preparing for their first game (Normal Community) of the four game round robin tournament.

This was a great tournament to start the season for the Lady Potters.  Rarely, if ever, have the Lady Potters had the opportunity to play two teams, in November, that have as much talent as Normal Community and Richwoods.  While they passed the test against Normal Community, I think they learned more about themselves and their opponent in the game against Richwoods.

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They had the chance to see what they need to work on most throughout the next 3 months, to get where they ultimately want to go.

Nothing gets Morton’s attention more than a loss.  So while losses always fuel the verbiage of pessimists, critics and haters (3x State Champions always have plenty of those), they also pump energy and focus into Coach Becker’s Lady Potter teams.  Look for Morton to rebound from this loss and begin the process of continuous improvement.  Next game for Morton is Thursday, November 30th at Metamora High School (7pm).

Lady Potters looking good on Day 1 of MLP Classic…

Morton Thanksgiving Classic

Game 1 – Morton vs. Normal Community

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Talk about baptism by fire for your first game of the season.  The Morton Lady Potters opened the 2017-18 season facing, arguably, one of the most talented teams they will face all season, in the  Normal Community Lady Iron.  Normal Community is very talented and came into the game 4-0, having won the Bloomington/Normal Intercity Championship for the first time in 14 years.  They have three underclassmen that already have D1 offers in Maya Wong (soph), Kylee Schneringer (soph) and Abby Feit (Junior).  Athletic and long and can shoot the ball with the best of them.  As well as a bevy of experienced seniors.

 

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Luckily the Morton Lady Potters have some talented players of their own, and a Hall of Fame coach to go with them.  On this day, the Morton Lady Potters were the better team, winning the game 55-49.  The Lady Potters outplayed the Lady Iron through 3 quarters, more than matching Normal with their own high octane offense.  Lindsey Dullard, Tenley Dowell and Josi Becker took turns shredding the Lady Iron defense and the rest of the team made things tough on Normal throughout the game.

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Morton pulled out to a 14 point lead to end the 3rd quarter, but Normal’s superstar (Maya Wong) came alive in the 4th quarter bringing her team back to within 2 points (49-47) late in the game.  Morton took care of the ball and made their free throws though to close out the game.  It was a very good game to start the season for the Lady Potters.

 

 

Game 2 – Morton vs. Champaign Central

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In their second game of the season, Morton unleashed their offensive and defensive fury, on their guests from Champaign, from the opening tip.  Morton outmatched Champaign Central at every position and cruised to a 76-29 game.  Most of the people sitting around me thought the Lady Potters could have scored twice as many points in this game if Coach Becker had wanted to keep his foot on the throttle, but instead he took the opportunity to get his less experienced players major minutes.  As the game was in hand about 3 minutes into the game, the starters played together sparingly from the second quarter on.

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Morton was impressive in this blowout win and looked like they had used the last three weeks of practice time very well.  They will need to get their rest tonight though and be their best for Saturday as they will face two more teams including the Richwoods Lady Knights, that also looked good today in taking down Normal Community by 9 points.  Richwoods is very talented, tall and quick with a predominantly Junior lineup.  They have three D1 prospects as well and will give Morton a good opportunity to see where they are right now as a team.  Morton faces Richwoods at 5pm on Saturday night.

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