FUTURE CHAMPIONS Morton Lady Potter Summer Basketball Camps 2021

This is where the journey begins. All of our players were once summer campers like you. Join our championship players and coaches this summer to begin learning the Potter Way. You will learn fundamentals of basketball while meeting new friends and having FUN. All camps are instructed by Morton 709 coaches and players. Each camper will be treated with TLC (tender loving care) and it’s our hope for all campers to learn some basketball, meet new friends, and have fun while sparking a love for Lady Potter Basketball! We look forward to working with you!

 

Shooting & Offensive Skills Camp        May 24th – May 27th          Grades 1-6   9am-11am   $75

This camp is all about offense!  Ballhandling, passing, footwork, moves & finishes and shooting fundamentals will be emphasized.  Campers will be instructed on shooting mechanics along with an array of individual offensive skills designed to help each player succeed on the offensive end of the court.  All campers will receive a t-shirt.  Four day camp runs Monday – Thursday and will utilize the High School East Gym as well as the new Junior High Gym.  All campers should report to the high school east gym on day one.

FUNdamental Camp                      June 14th-17th                             Grades 1-6   9am-11am   $75

Our FUNdamental Camp will consist of fun, action-packed four days designed to develop each camper’s fundamental skills and overall playing ability. Fundamentals will be stressed but fun is main priority!  Camp will include team-oriented situations as well as individual skill development and a variety of camp games.  We want camp to be an enjoyable Potter experience working with our players and coaching staff.  This is a great way to meet other kids interested in basketball and learn a bit of our Potter Way.  All campers will receive a t-shirt at each camp.  Four day camp runs Monday – Thursday and will utilize the High School East Gym as well as the new Junior High Gym.  All campers should report to the high school east gym on day one.

 

Morton Potters & Junior Potters         Grades 7th-12th                     $80

 Shooting & Offensive Skill Development      May 24th – May 27th          11:00am-1:00pm

 Developing Team Concepts                               June 14th- 17th                  11:00am-1:00pm

These eight dates are for Morton High School and Morton Junior High aged players and are designed to help build championship players. Individual skill development along with introducing team concepts will be emphasized. All players planning to play during the summer and winter are strongly encouraged to participate. These count as some of our IHSA contact dates and will serve as some summer practices.  Each camp will run Monday – Thursday and utilize the high school east gym as well as new junior high gym.  All campers should plan to meet at high school on day one.

 

Please click the following link for Registration Form: Morton Lady Potters Summer Camps 2021 Registration Form

Please direct all questions to Morton Head Coach Bob Becker

Email: Robert.becker@mcusd709.org                        Phone # 309-642-4432

Be sure to visit our Morton Lady Potter Basketball website!             www.mortonladypotters.com 

 

MLP Summer Camp 1MLP Summer Camp 2MLP Summer Camp3MLP Summer Camp4

“Mascara running?”

Morton’s Lady Potters 49, Washington 44

Katie Krupa, big-time player, arrived this afternoon at the Potterdome. It’s not as if we haven’t seen her be really good for three years, among the best in Illinois. But now it’s time for upper-case letters, KATIE KRUPA.

For 36 minutes this afternoon, the 6-foot-2 junior did everything a big-time player can do. Block shots, bring the ball up, out-run the enemy’s fastest people, curl in impossible shots in the paint, do the Steph Curry thing from downtown, and . . .

OK, give me a minute, I’ll cool down.

But, really.

Look at this. Seven seconds left in the first half. From the far end, the Potters in-bound it to Krupa. Who does not hurry. Who is walking it to mid-court. It’s like she has a plan. Seven seconds, down to four, Krupa crosses mid-court. She is Steph Curry chill. Three more steps, still 25 feet from the hoop, maybe 30, way outside the arc. Stops.

Puts it up. Smoothly, perfectly. It’s in the air at the buzzer.

BANG!

Suddenly, Morton led, 26-27.

As nice as that moment was, it was only one of dozens created by Krupa against a strong, aggressive, relentless Washington team that rallied from eight points down in the fourth quarter to force overtime. In the extra four minutes, Krupa scored six of Morton’s eight points. She finished with 29, her career high, and gently rebuffed a reporter’s suggestion that she’d had a big-timer’s A+ game.

She said, “I don’t think there is anything such as an A+.” Smiling, she added, “An A, maybe.”

The Potters needed Krupa’s A-game. Three times, early, they led by as many as eight and midway in the third quarter still led by nine. But Washington did not cave. It made five 3-pointers in a quarter’s time, the last bringing the Panthers close enough that, with 11 seconds to play, they made a high-difficulty shot in the paint to force overtime.

By scoring first in overtime – its only points in the period – Washington earned its first lead in an hour. Krupa quickly evened it with a driving layup. And two Raquel Frakes free throws at :46.6 put Morton on top to stay. Krupa finished it off with four straight free throws.

Krupa and Frakes! Between them, 42 points today. They’d come to the Potters varsity together three years ago, Krupa as a freshman, Frakes a sophomore transfer from Lewistown. Today, at game’s end, they embraced at mid-court, both crying, Frakes later saying, “From Day One, we’ve bonded. She helped me so much. I was scared, actually. I didn’t know if I could play in a program like Morton’s. We helped make each other better.”

A basketball net, cut down in the team’s giddy celebration, hung around Frakes’s neck when she asked, “Is my mascara running?”

I said, “Huh?”

She said, “Does it look bad?”

Not knowing exactly what to tell a teenage girl who’d been happy crying and now worried about her mascara running, I said, “Uhhh.”

Her inquiring eyes asked again, so I said, “You look like you just played a basketball game.”

And a beautiful game it was this afternoon in the Potterdome. In defeating a very good Washington team, the Potters won the Mid-Illini Conference tournament and finished the season with a league-best record of 14-3.

Here’s how beautiful it was. At the end of what the Potters’ coach called “a crazy game, a crazy season,” it got crazier when he talked into his team’s locker room — where players doused him with enough water to leave him happily drenched and saying, “I’m so proud of this team, how they grew so connected in this season.”

Here, also, is how beautiful it was. Listen to Katie Krupa explain her thinking on her slow-walking to that 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer.

“I was well aware of the time. (Seven seconds.) And I knew we had to score to get momentum for the second half. So as I was taking it down the court, I noticed my girl decided to sag off me. Which I thought was a little disrespectful. So I just let it fly. Like, dang, don’t guard me then.”

Krupa’s 29, incidentally, gave her 1,016 points for her three seasons, the 15th Lady Potter to reach the 1,000-point mark. Frakes added 13 (on defense, allowed only 10 points to a Washington star who’d scored 27 the night before). Addy Engel had 3, and Maggie Hobson and Cailyn Cowley 2 each. Faith Hostetler delivered the Milk Duds again, smoothly, perfectly

Donald Pyles Photographs (PDR_7629)

“Final game on the final day”

Morton’s Lady Potters 40, Metamora 31

Katie Krupa cut hard down the right side of the lane. There she handled a bad bounce pass at her knees and recovered to find herself too deep to put up a layup – but she put it up, anyway, from an impossible angle, nearly behind the backboard, and somehow it kissed the glass so softly as to fall in. And there came a coach’s voice declaring, at great volume, “YES!!” Bob Becker liked it a lot.

Next time down, from about 10 o’clock on the right arc, Krupa put up a shot from way out there – wait, no, not a shot, it was a long, looping pass to Raquel Frakes hustling to the hoop from the left side. A touch off in timing, Frakes caught the pass and, instead of scoring there, took two steps through the paint to score. This time, Becker said nothing, but there came to his bearded face the serene look of a coach who had just won a game.

Becker called for those set plays, the first “Chest,” the second “Bradley.” Morton’s lead was 33-26 with six minutes to play. But the best part was, the Krupa and Frakes buckets came just 27 seconds apart. Killers. There’s an old country-song lyric that goes, “She took my heart out and stomped that sucker flat.” Exactly.

So tomorrow afternoon, at 4 o’clock, the Potters will play for the Mid-Illini Conference tournament championship. They’ll play Washington, an upset winner tonight over regular-season champion Dunlap. In an awkward, Covid-abbreviated season in during which the Potters have won 13 of 16 games, somehow they have arrived at what Becker recognized as familiar territory.

Five times, his teams have played in state championship games. There are no state tournaments this season. But the Potters have done the next best thing available to them. “We’re playing in the final game on the final day,” Becker said.

I hasten to add that all was not beauty tonight. Metamora led after a quarter, 6-3. Yes, 6-3. Metamora led 15-7 with 1:33 left in the half. Yes, 15-7 after 14 ½ minutes. The temptation is to type “defensive struggle,” Metamora’s zone impenetrable, Morton’s mixture of tactics unsolvable. The temptation must be resisted. Morton’s only struggle was deciding to shoot the cursed thing. At least one man (blush) was heard to say, “Put it UP.” Look, just throw it at the damn hoop. Something.

And along came the littlest Potter, 5-foot-3 junior Paige Griffin. She’d missed three games in quarantine this weird season. During her time out, she had time to think. What she thought was, “I can’t just keep passing it to Katie and Maggie and Rocky,” meaning someone had to shoot besides Krupa, Hobson, and Frakes. She asked Becker what she had to do to improve, to help the team with more than just defense (where she’s a persistent pest of the best kind).

And that’s how, with 1:33 left in the first half, Griffin found herself open at the top of the key and she made a 3-pointer that touched nothing but net. “I had to step up,” she said.

A minute later, Hobson did it from the left side. And with a second left in the half, Hobson threw one at the damn hoop – really, just falling away from a defender, she practically baseball’d the cursed leather in the direction of the hoop (a truism: none of ‘em go in you don’t shoot ‘em). Hobson’s throw crashed against the backboard and fell in at the horn.

No style points there, but the Potters took the real 3 points. Starting with Griffin’s 3, they’d scored 9 points in 93 seconds. And, having done nothing ‘til then, they led at halftime, 16-15. My note on Morton’s lead: “How in the world…???”

The question was best answered in the fourth quarter. Still dominant defensively – Metamora was reduced to shots born of desperation – the Potters went on a 9-0 run that ate up all but 55 seconds of the quarter.

Krupa dominated those moments, scoring on that driving layup and adding four free throws given her by Metamora defenders just as desperate as its shooters. Of Morton’s 24 second-half points, Krupa had 12. “I’ve just always seemed to play better when the game’s on the line,” she said.

Krupa led Morton’s scoring with 17. Griffin had 8 (her second 3-pointer broke an 18-all tie early in the third quarter). Hobson also had 8, Frakes 6, and Sedona McCartney 1.

“Amazing…”

Morton’s Lady Potters 55, Limestone 36

With 53.5 seconds to play, Claire Reiman stepped onto the court. She took a couple steps too many. So the Potters’ coaches said, “No, no, stay right here,” and they pointed to a spot just inside the out of bounds line about a foot from the bench. There she stood as Limestone ran past her with the ball.

Then, with 51.1 seconds to play, Claire Reiman stepped off the court and her teammates rushed to hug her.

Those were Claire Reiman’s happiest 2.4 seconds of the season.

She’d torn up a knee in a summer game. Surgery precluded her playing at all in this season, her senior season. But in the last minute of a Seniors Night game that the Potters would win easily, coach Bob Becker wanted Reiman on the court. Not to play, but to be honored. As there were 14 Potters at the start of this strange season, there would be 14 at the end.

“Amazing,” Reiman said later outside the Potters’ locker room, and her voice broke, “to be on the court,” and tears came to her eyes. She spoke in a whisper behind her mask. A man taking notes waited a while and asked if she’d repeat what he hadn’t heard well. “Amazing,” she said, bright-eyed and smiling, “to be on the court with my teammates.”

There was never a chance that Morton (11-3 in the regular season) would lose to Limestone (2-12) in this first-round game of the Mid-Illini Conference tournament. For a half, though, there was every chance the Lady Potters would embarrass themselves by playing poorly against a Limestone team that dressed only six players, having left five at home in Covid quarantine.

Limestone led after a quarter and a half, 12-9. (Good grief.) Morton needed an 11-2 run to take a 20-14 halftime lead.

Well, so what’s Becker say to his players in the locker room?

Not much. He’d seen his players flat and dull, no one showing any signs of energy or enthusiasm. No sense talking X’s and O’s to people going through the motions. (9 points in the first 12 minutes???) “So I asked the team, ‘What are your thoughts?’”

Raquel Frakes, one of the team’s five seniors, had thoughts. “I said, ‘They’re getting offensive rebounds, they’re making hustle plays, they’re out-working us.’ It was a loss of our culture.”

Becker’s locker-room speech finally came down to two words: “Fix it.”

Fix it they did. Coming off the second quarter’s 11-2 run, they opened the third on a 13-3 run. Addy Engel began it with a free throw, Frakes added a layup, Graci Junis a 15-footer, and Katie Krupa the last eight points. In those nine minutes, Morton outscored Limestone, 24-5. (More like it.)

In tomorrow night’s semifinal, Morton plays Metamora, which comes in on a seven-game winning streak, including tonight’s 44-26 victory over Canton. The Potters have beaten Metamora twice this winter, neither time easily.

“They’re physical, aggressive, and talented,” Becker said. “We can’t play just a half of basketball.”

Oh. Wait. I didn’t mention tonight’s national anthem singer. Every Seniors Night for a long time, assistant coach Bill Davis did it. Then he went and retired from coaching to his day job, delivering mail in Bloomington. But there he was tonight, happily in full voice, and I asked if he’d been practicing for his Sinatra-like comeback.

“I haven’t sung it since last season,” he said, “except for three or four times in the mail truck.”

Krupa led Morton’s scoring tonight with 13. Frakes had 12 (two with a spin move in the paint and layup with her off hand that caused Old Coach Davis to say, “Vintage Rocky!”) Paige Griffin scored 8, Junis 6, Maggie Hobson 5, Cailyn Cowley 4, Engel 3, and Sedona McCartney and Paige Chapin 2 each.

“Best of the season”

Morton’s Lady Potters 55, Dunlap 44

We could start with the Potter dad who came out of the bleachers during live action and loaned his mask to his freshman daughter, Addy Engel, after hers fell apart. Dad’s nice work was rewarded when Engel made three big plays when the Potters most needed three big plays.

Or maybe we should start with the Potter senior, Raquel Frakes, who made a high-flying rebound play and crash-landed in the paint as a teammate scored a game-turning put-back. Frakes saw it all from floor level while seated and later explained, “When I fell, I didn’t want to scare my mom.” (She injured a knee a year ago). “So I made sure I landed on my butt.”

We could quote people. Senior Cailyn Cowley: “That was fun.” Morton’s coach, Bob Becker: “It was our best game of the season.” Frakes: “We wanted redemption.”

Two days ago, the Potters lost at Dunlap by 16. This afternoon, they won going away. Losing to Dunlap ended the Potters’ six-year run of Mid-Illini Conference championships. Redemption began this afternoon as the Potters set up a possible rubber-match with Dunlap in the conference tournament final next Saturday.

Today they beat the new champs in ways that Becker’s teams have always beaten people – with aggressive defense (so good that Dunlap, which made 25 free throws Thursday, didn’t shoot one today), relentless work under the boards, and offensive movement that puts shooters where they can best shoot. Two days ago, Dunlap’s three best players scored 49 points; today, those three scored 14. One was reduced from 19 to 6 this time by a persistent defender who really enjoyed the day. “None against me,” Frakes said, smiling. “We were really focused today. We came to play.” She also said, in case Dunlappians wondered, “We’re definitely the better team.”

The game turned in the third quarter. Down by six early, Morton closed out the period on an 11-0 run that gave it the lead for good. For good, yes – but not comfortably. The Potters led 42-37 midway through the fourth. What they did next, they did in a way that calls for trespass against all writerly rules limiting the use of adverbs. What they did next, they did doggedly, brilliantly, and quickly.

First, Katie Krupa rimmed out a short shot from close on the right side. She rebounded the miss and put up an awkward second. And here came Frakes. Behind a bunch of people and not able to get her hands on the rebound, she did something better. She tipped the ball toward her teammate, Cowley, on the left low block. Cowley scored. From her new seat in the paint, Frakes rose in celebration and hurried back on defense. Morton’s lead was 7 with 4:09 to play.

After a defensive stop, next time down, Morton needed no dogged brilliance. They needed to slide a dagger into Dunlap’s heart. They did it from the top of the key, from high noon on the 3-point arc, the killshot delivered by junior Maggie Hobson. “Luckily,” she said, “it went in.” Nothing lucky about it. Hobson had ended the third quarter with back-to-back 3’s and this one raised the Potters’ lead to 10 with 3:45 to play. Dunlap, dead.

To make certain of that, here came the freshman Addy Engel, by now having traded her dad’s Ohio State-red mask for a team regulation-blue. “One earpiece on mine had snapped, and I saw Dad come out with his,” she said. Later, not once, not twice, but on three straight possessions in the last 2:22, Engel scored on driving layups along the left baseline. “I played confidently,” she said, a truth attested to by her 11 points that included an early 3-pointer.

Morton finished the M-I regular season with an 11-3 record. Dunlap is 12-2.

Krupa led Morton’s scoring today with 14. Engel had 11, Frakes 10, and Hobson 9. Cowley had 4, Sedona McCartney 3, and Faith Hostetler and Graci Junis each had 2.

The Potters will start the conference tournament Thursday night at the Potterdome against the league’s seventh-place team, likely Limestone.

“Got outplayed”

March 4, 2021: “Got outplayed”
Dunlap 58, Morton’s Lady Potters 42

Yes, I was 75 feet away. And I come with a bias. But I’m telling you, that was no foul on Katie Krupa. The Dunlap shooter threw up a prayer from way downtown. Then she flopped onto the court, as if struck down with malice aforethought. On hearing a referee’s whistle and seeing him look at her, Krupa said, loudly, “THAT’S A FOUL?” Oh, such a bruise to the man’s delicate ego. So he T’d her up.

Yes, she may have earned it. It’s never a good idea to test a zebra’s tolerance. But, really. Not even four minutes into the game? It’s not as if he had heard complaints for an hour. Besides, I am an eyewitness to the truth, your honor, that Krupa never touched the flopping flopper. Why would she contest a prayer from way downtown? The Dunlappers already were 1-for-5 on hurried-up 3 pointers.

Yes, I’m making much ado about a foul at 4:36 of the first quarter. And, yes, I’m going to go on about it a little more – because it would stand as symbolic of the Lady Potters’ night. Instead of the prayer falling on deaf ears, it resulted in a six-point possession that gave Dunlap a lead it never gave up. From there, everything went the winners’ way.

Wait. Did I say a “six-point possession”? Yes. Two free throws came on the shooting foul, two more on the technical foul, and two on a put-back of Dunlap’s next shot. Morton’s 5-3 lead became a 9-5 deficit in 13 seconds of play. The Potters never got closer the rest of the way.

The last time they were that close, at 31-27 early in the third quarter, Dunlap went on a 9-0 run that featured a steal of a Morton in-bounds pass (oh my) and an offensive rebound basket that caused me to make a one-word note (“over”). It was over early because the Potters’ were 1) beaten on the boards, 2) timid on offense, and 3) a step behind on defense. Morton coach Bob Becker said it in fewer words: “Our kids got outplayed tonight.”

Becker called Dunlap’s guards, sophomore Sophia Remmel and junior Lily Sutter, “the best guard tandem in the conference.” They accounted for 32 points tonight and the Dunlap post, senior Gabby DiGiallonardo, added 17 – meaning those three outscored Morton by themselves.

“We’re a really young team,” Dunlap coach Heather Cassady said. “We start two sophomores, two juniors, and a senior. It’s a great accomplishment for them to knock off a program like Morton’s.” She also said, “This is my eighth season here and the first time we’ve beaten them.” That means Morton had beaten Dunlap at least 14 times in a row. I had seen Morton beat Dunlap 20 straight times.

Still, Dunlap was the better team tonight. With the victory, the Eagles clinched the Mid-Illini Conference championship and ended Morton’s run of six straight titles. The teams end the regular season with a rematch Saturday afternoon in the Potterdome. Dunlap is 12-1, Morton 10-3.

After missing three games with an ankle injury, Maggie Hobson led Morton’s scoring with 14. Krupa had 10, Raquel Frakes 9, Addy Engel 5, and Graci Junis 4.

“Chance for 7th straight”

Morton’s Lady Potters 48, Limestone 37

The Potters scored the game’s first 10 points and they won by 11. Nothing much thrilling happened in between. Maybe if I were in the Limestone gym, I’d have been excited. Because of covid restrictions I watched from home on YouTube. Not to say the livestream camera was far from the court, but it was like watching basketball from under God’s chin.

Good thing I had my right eye polished today. Yes, the eye doctor said I needed the right eye “laser polished.” The cornea lens implanted long ago after cataract surgery was old and dirty. A laser beam would fix that. Took 28 seconds. No pain. A world gone gray lately became sparkly with reds and blues. I celebrated with lunch at the Really Truly Golden Arches with the 2-for-$5 fish filet deal (with a Diet Coke $6.64, rounded up to $7 for Ronald McDonald House.)

So the game arrived on my PC in bright colors. But, look. When Morton’s 9-2 and Limestone’s 2-9 and the players are indistinguishable, I can step away from the game a minute. Bake chicken cordon bleu. Also, wash not one but TWO loads of clothes. Such was my Domestic Hero mood tonight that I had the washing machine and dryer running simultaneously. (A friend, the mother of five athletes, has a laundry room with double-decker washers/dryers. She can run all FOUR at once and replenish on the fly. I am unworthy.)

Things worked so smoothly that it didn’t really bother me when there was no sound on the game. I mean, we’re not going to get Todd Bisping and Troy Dowell doing commentary from Limestone. Nor did it bother me when my far-flung correspondent on the scene reported the first-quarter score as Morton 16-6. On my PC, it was 10-0. Thus alerted, I tried the “LIVE BROADCAST” button and got the LIVE BROADCAST. Brilliant.

Then I remembered that my PC sound comes from speakers set behind the monitor. I reached back there and clicked the speakers to ON. Amazing. Still no commentators, but shoes squeaked and basketballs bounced. Early in the third quarter, Morton led, 30-11. Rest of the way, I folded clothes.

Now 10-2 in Mid-Illini Conference play, the Potters still have a chance to win the regular-season championship. They go to Dunlap (11-1) Thursday night with a rematch at the Potterdome on Saturday afternoon. Two victories would give Morton its seventh straight M-I title.

Katie Krupa led the Potters’ scoring tonight with 19. Raquel Frakes had 10, Graci Junis 6, Sedona McCartney 5, Addy Engel 4, Paige Chapin 2 and Faith Hostetler 2.

“It was beautiful”

Morton’s Lady Potters 42, Limestone 29

We’ve seen the Bob Becker Dance. He spins, one foot high, while wriggling to get out his suit coat. (Think Houdini in a straitjacket.) We’ve seen the coach get an arm caught up in a twisted sleeve before flinging the whole bag of laundry in the direction of a zebra that had offended him.

We’ve often seen the Bob Becker Stomp in which he crashes a size 12 against the hardwood in announcement that unkind fate has deprived his Lady Potters of a bucket they sorely needed.

Occasionally, because they needed it, we’ve heard the Bob Becker Sermon delivered to Potters who had trespassed against good basketball sense by failing, say, to throw a pass to the open man when she is open, not earlier or later.

Today the Bob Becker Drum Solo happened.

It was a good and happy happening. He saw ball movement beyond pretty. Even as a Katie Krupa layup fell through the net, the Potters’ coach pirouetted in front of his team’s bench and came down hammering on the Potterdome’s metal bleachers, both hands beating out a thunderous rhythm, rat-a-tat-tat-boom-BOOM-kerBOOM, with a rim-shot flourish as he snapped his red
mask back into place.

“Until then, we just hadn’t been swinging the ball from side to side and getting it into the paint,” Becker said. “It was beautiful.”

Krupa’s layup came off a Cailyn Cowley pass to the low right block. Those points came with the Potters already up by 11 with 4:44 to play. It was more important that they came at all. The moment’s beauty shone in contrast to much of the Potters’ all-day struggles with high-risk passes that failed against Limestone’s hustling defenders.

Whatever chance Limestone had – down 11-2 in the first quarter, down 13 after three — the Potters quickly extinguished the visitors’ hope. Krupa followed that layup with two more nice plays: 1) an open-court steal and solo fast break, and 2) a layup off a Raquel Frakes pass.

I mention the Frakes pass for two reasons. It was perfect and it came after a Becker Sermon reminding his players they didn’t need to be perfect. It’s not a game of perfect. But neither is it a game in which you allow defenders to know where the next pass is going. “We were telegraphing ‘em too much,” Becker said.

The Frakes-to-Krupa connection was particularly effective today. Of Krupa’s six buckets in the paint, three came on nifty passes from Frakes, who several times found herself at point guard, basically changing positions with Krupa.

“Katie and I have played together so long that we know what each other is doing,” Frakes said.

“We’re able to scan the floor,” Krupa said, “and see each other.”

As to Becker’s reminder they need not be perfect – excellent will do – Frakes and Krupa looked at each other before speaking.

“He gets on us,” Frakes said.

Krupa said, “Always.”

Then they exited stage left, laughing with the joy of being 9-2 in the Mid-Illinii Conference. Limestone is 2-9.

Krupa’s first field goal today was a 3-pointer from high noon. She added six more baskets and seven free throws to lead the Potters’ coring with 22. Frakes had 8, Graci Junis 6, and Addy Engel 6.

The Potters go to Limestone next Tuesday, then end the M-I regular season with two games against conference leader Dunlap, whose 10-1 record includes a 71-14 victory over Limestone.

“I had the green light”

Morton’s Lady Potters 62, East Peoria 38

Late in this one, Cailyn Cowley heard what she’s been listening for. She’s been patient enough. The Lady Potters senior has worked her way up in the rotation, now second or third off the bench, mostly playing inside. And what is it that such a player wants to hear?

Here you need to know she’s a good shooter with a nice, soft touch. But the team’s needs have kept her in the paint where she scores a workingman’s points on layups and rebounds.

Until tonight. Tonight she heard what stars hear.

“I had the green light,” she said.

And that meant?

“Shoot it from anywhere.”

Cowley laughed and blushed and the words bubbled out of her and she looked at a reporter’s notebook to make sure he was getting it all down. Whatever big number Cailyn Cowley’s happy meter goes to, she was there.

She said the green light came from the Potters’ coach, Bob Becker, once a shooter himself (still lamenting the late creation of the 3-point shot). He knew what Cowley wanted to hear. He’d seen her put up pretty 3’s in practice, the shots spinning perfectly off her hands.

So it happened that she made back-to-back 3-pointers in the last three minutes of tonight’s game. She’d made a couple 3’s in other years but the one from the top of the key tonight was her first this season.

The ball had gone inside and back out to the green-lit shooter. “I knew as soon as I got it, I’d shoot it.” Something Stephen Curry might say.

And the second one?

“From the right wing, I knew if they passed it to me, I WOULD SHOOT IT!” Stephen Curry’s mindset, absolutely.

Set free from the paint, going 2-for-2 on 3’s in about a minute, Cowley said, “I’d never made two in one game.” And, “What a great feeling, seeing those go through and just running back on defense.”

Now, of course, the 33 spectators in the Potterdome’s covid-restricted bleachers must have been rooting for a third 3 when Cowley, from the left wing, put up another pretty one. Alas, even Steph misses once in a while. This one spun out.

Except for Cowley-as-Curry, it wasn’t much of a game. Morton’s starters ran up a 26-0 lead in the first quarter and played less than another quarter. The Potters are now 8-2 in Mid-Illini Conference play, East Peoria 1-9. Becker said, “I liked our energy, our defenses were good, man-to-man, and the box-and-one, and the bench was productive.”

Morton was without two regular starters. Maggie Hobson twisted an ankle two nights ago at East Peoria and may be out for another couple games. Paige Griffin was in quarantine because her sister tested positive for covid.

For the first time in her career, Cowley led Morton’s scoring with 14 points. Raquel Frakes had 12, Katie Krupa 10, Addy Engel 8, Sedona McCartney 5, Graci Junis 4, Faith Hostetler 4, Paige Chapin 2, Gaby Heer 2, Maria Lopko 1.

The Potters next play Limestone (2-8) at 12:30 Saturday afternoon in the Potterdome.

“Control our destiny”

Morton’s Lady Potters 51, East Peoria 36

Because Tiger Woods injured himself badly in an auto accident this morning in California, I put on my golf writer cap today. (Column on Golfdigest.com.) As to what happened in East Peoria’s gym tonight, I confess to being so busy with Tiger that I didn’t catch the EP live stream until it was 15-3, Morton.

Soon enough it was 30-7, about what’s to be expected when one team is 6-2 in the Mid-Illini Conference and the other is 1-7. Of Morton’s 13 players, 12 scored. East Peoria made six 3-pointers in the second half and cut Morton’s lead to 47-36 with 2:20 to play. Not to say the Potters got nervous, but coach Bob Becker did send in starter Katie Krupa to steady the ship.

Becker later said, “We played our bench liberally. Some nice execution, but at times it could have been much better.” Looking ahead to M-I games against East Peoria (Thursday at 6 p.m. in the Potterdome) and two with Limestone before finishing with two against first-place Dunlap, the coach said, “We are in control of our
own destiny as far as conference. We win five more we will earn the title. We hope to keep improving and be 1-0 after our next game on Thursday.”

Krupa led Morton’s scoring tonight with 14. Raquel Frakes had 9, Graci Junis 6, Paige Chapin 4, Cailyn Cowley and Maggie Hobson 3 each. With 2 apiece: Paige Griffin Faith Hostetler, Sedona McCartney, Abbey Pollard, Gaby Heer, and Addy Engel.

“Find a way, make a way”

Morton’s Lady Potters 36, Metamora 31

“First 6 possessions are turnovers.” So read the dispatch from my far-flung correspondent in Metamora. A second or two later, this: “Correction. 7 now. Gracious be.” Then an air ball, worse than a turnover. By my count, the first 10 times the Potters came to the offensive end, they got zip, zilch, nada, nothin’ done. Gracious be? No. This called for a holy jumpin’ Jehoshaphat!

So Metamora led after a quarter, 7-1. As bad as that sounds, the reality was worse. Counting the second half of Thursday night’s victory at Morton, the Potters had played three consecutive quarters against Metamora in which they had scored 4 points, 2 points, and 1.

At halftime today, ahead 19-15, the Metamorans came back to the court quickly, warmed up some, put up a few shots to kill time. They had reason to be comfortable. Meanwhile, the Potters were still in the locker room. They came onto the court only in the last seconds. No warming up. No shooting around. Their late entrance was intriguing. Watching by PC from home, I wondered what coach Bob Becker might have said at halftime that took so long?

Nothing, really. He answered by text on the bus ride back to Morton: “Chance to regroup and refocus. No yelling. Our first-half warm-up was done and it was another opportunity the 2d half. Cut down turnovers. Stay poised and composed. After all, we were only down 4.”

Becker believes the first three minutes of any second half are critical. In this one, his Potters wasted no time. The first trip, Maggie Hobson made a 3-pointer from 10 o’clock on the arc. The Metamora lead, once eight points, was one. As small as all the people in gray road uniforms looked on my PC, their body language said it was their time.

The first take-charge moment came on a Katie Krupa spin move and long-stepping drive down the right side of the lane through traffic. Just when she seemed lost to sight, she reappeared on the low block putting up an underhand toss that touched the board softly and fell in.

Next, Hobson scored, and I wish I could tell you how she did it, but she disappeared in the dark live-streaming shadows under Morton’s basket. Anyway, invisible or not, it still counted two points and gave Morton the lead for the first time at 22-21. It never again trailed. After the “Gracious be” start left them behind, 9-1, the Potters outscored Metamora 35-22.

It did that good work two ways. On offense: Krupa, despite being grabbed, bullied, and bounced around by Metamora’s defenders, worked without rest inside; and Hobson relieved some of that interior pressure by making three 3-pointers. More important, defense again won this one for Morton. This time, for instance, it was Metamora, in the critical third quarter, that could score only four points against an array of defenses that included the rare box-and-one with pestiferous Paige Griffin assigned to pester Metamora’s best shooter.

“Find a way, make a way,” Becker said. “I love the growth we’ve made growing and connecting as a team. Fastest way to build this connection is at the defensive end. We hung tough., persevered, earned the sweep, and another W! Lots of big moments.”

Hobson led Morton’s scoring with 16 and Krupa had 15. Griffin and Raquel Frakes had 2 each, Addy Engel 1.

Morton is now 6-2 in the Mid-Illini Conference, Metamora 6-3. The Potters next play Tuesday night at home against East Peoria (1-7).

“Win on defense”

Morton’s Lady Potters 27, Metamora 24

When’s the last time the Lady Potters won a close game against a good team by scoring two points – count ‘em, 1, 2 – in the fourth quarter and those two came on an in-bounds play designed by an assistant coach who retired a year ago to his day job as a mailman?

Hearing the question, the Potters’ coach, Bob Becker, said, “Ummm.” There came a furrow to his delicate brow. And he said, “Uhhh.”

The question was designed to elicit murmurs of not-in-my-lifetime-or-yours because the man asking the question knew he’d for sure never seen it happen. Finally, Becker, in his 21st season, said, “Maybe in a running-clock game, like against Chicago Hope…”

He meant the Potters may have scored two points in the fourth quarter of a running-clock 59-point victory. Tonight’s victory wasn’t one of that kind. This one left you with nerves all a-jangle.

It was the kind where those two points were two more than the Potters had scored in the previous 7 ½ minutes of play. Those two may have been more than they expected to score at all against a strong and relentlessly aggressive Metamora defense that had produced six victories in seven Mid-Illini Conference games.

The two points came with a minute and 36 seconds to play. And they came after the Potters already had failed on the first in-bounds play; a referee’s count was within a second of giving the ball to Metamora. Only a quick timeout call by Becker gave the Potters a second chance. This time they tried a play called “Big D” in honor of the long-time assistant coach Bill Davis.

With the ball on the left half of the baseline under her own basket, Katie Krupa needed only two seconds this time to drop a little pass to the slashing Maggie Hobson on the right-side low block.

Hobson’s layup was the Potters’ only fourth-quarter basket and only their third in the six-point second half of a game dominated by defense.

Up 21-13 at halftime, Morton certainly needed its assortment of defenses – mostly man-to-man with match-up zones mixed in – to hang on to a 25-24 lead at that 1:38 mark. And after Hobson’s layup, Morton’s defense survived furious attack by Metamora’s long-range shooters. They’d made three 3-pointers and then, forced outside the arc by Morton’s defenders, had no alternative other than to keep flinging the rock at the hoop from afar. Metamora’s desperation produced no success.

“It’s always great,” Becker said, “to win on the defensive end,” a summary that followed the coach leading his team in a giddy locker-room celebration “dance,” dance in air quotes because no one could clearly explain what dance the “dance” was, though it resembled something done by folks in cowboy hats in dimly lit places with sawdust on the floor. Call it the Pandemic Potter Two-Step.

Morton, now 5-2 in the Mid-Illini, goes to Metamora for a Saturday afternoon rematch.

Krupa led Morton’s scoring with 10, Hobson had 9, Raquel Frakes 6, and Paige Griffin 2.

“ 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.

“A 15-point lead!”

Washington 46, Morton’s Lady Potters 37

Again forced to watch from afar, meaning from home with my dog KO, your techno-bumbling reporter begins with three confessions:

1) I missed the first half entirely, 2) the streaming video finally arrived as a blur out here in the woods, and 3) the Lady Potters, already blurry, were so tiny on my PC monitor that I couldn’t tell Katie Krupa from stars of yore, say Peyton Dearing, or even Brooke Bisping, somehow young again.

So I have no idea what happened this afternoon. Just that it was not good for the Potters. There’d be a red road-uniform Morton blur mixing into a white home-uniform Washington blur until suddenly both blurs were, for an unknown reason, running the other way.  The scoreboard told me the white blurs succeeded in scoring more often than the red blurs, though I never saw a ball go through a hoop at either end, the hoops lost in shadows.

Soon enough, the white home-uniform blurs had stretched a 27-17 halftime lead to 36-21 late in the third. That’s when a play-by-play broadcaster from the hometown video crew said, “The Panthers are putting up a tough defense against the Lady Potters offense.” Washington’s tough defense amounted to two and three defenders harassing Krupa anytime she had the ball. Still, with relentless purpose, Krupa scored 25 points. Problem was, the rest of the Potters accounted for only a dozen. No one wins many games that way.

At that 36-21 spot, an announcer’s voice went up an octave. “A 15-point lead,” he said, and, in case his voice didn’t reach Morton and its surroundings, he raised the pitch another notch, “A 15-point lead!” He could not be blamed for the long-suppressed bursts of excitement. It had been seven years (and 13 losses) since Washington last defeated Morton
.
On an 11-2 run with Krupa scoring 8 points, the Potters closed within 38-32 with 4:13 to play. From there, though, they couldn’t score again until the game’s last minute.

Morton had won 64 straight games in the Mid-Illini Conference before Thursday night’s loss at Pekin. It plays Washington again Tuesday night in the Potterdome.

Krupa’s 25 came on nine field goals (one a late 3-pointer) and six free throws. Addy Engel had 5 points, Raquel Frakes 3, and Maggie Hobson and Cailyn Crowley had 2 apiece.

“She’s getting pretty beat up”

Pekin 42, Morton’s Lady Potters 38

Close all the way. Pekin by four after a quarter, then Morton up by five. It was 33-apiece with 4:50 to play. And then . . .?

Well. Only local folks were allowed in Pekin’s Dawdy Hawkins Gym tonight (a Mid-Illini Conference rule in these Covid times). And the techno-genius in me was unable to connect to the video streaming of the game.

What little I know came from dispatches filed by correspondents dragooned for the night. One was a friend in Morton, another in Pekin, and a third worked from high above West 108th Street in New York City (whose last text read, sadly, “And the band plays the Dragons song”).

A consensus: the Potters, now 2-1, could get nothing done offensively against the Dragons, now 1-3. They scored only five points in the decisive fourth quarter.

Just guessing, but the way Pekin played Morton two nights ago (while losing 44-28), the Dragons must have closed down hard on the Potters’ best scorer, Katie Krupa. (A text: “She’s getting pretty beat up.”) Then Pekin could dare anyone else to shoot. In both Pekin-Morton games, only four Potters scored.

The defeat ended Morton’s 64-game winning streak in the Mid-Illini. The Potters last lost to a M-I team, East Peoria, on January 22, 2016. Six weeks later, those Potters won the first of the program’s four state 3A championships. Nothing so nice will follow this defeat; the virus has shut down state tournaments. Morton’s season ends with a conference tournament March 11-13.

Maggie Hobson led Morton’s scorers tonight with 13. Krupa and freshman Addy Engel had 11 apiece. Raquel Frakes had 3.

The Potters get back on the horse at 12:30 Saturday afternoon at Washington.