NORMAL – In their Illinois Class 3A semifinal game against Quincy Notre Dame at Redbird Arena here Friday afternoon, the Morton Lady Potters may have been moving on the court, but the scoreboard would have left people thinking they were standing still while the Lady Raiders went on three separate scoring runs over four quarters.

As a result, QND (29-0) defeated Morton, 67-51, before a crowd of roughly 2,500 fans, divided roughly equally between the two teams. The score indicates the second-highest number of points head coach Bob Becker’s Lady Potters have given up all season, dating back to their second game of the year. QND’s victory puts the Lady Raiders in their Class’ title matchup for the fourth straight year.

As a result, the Lady Potters will face Lombard Montini for a third place trophy. That game will be Saturday, starting with the 12 Noon tipoff. That’s a result of the other Class 3A semifinal played here Friday, in which Montini lost an overtime battle to Vernon Hills, 48-45. Vernon Hills will face QND for the Class 3A crown later Saturday afternoon.

QND applied their press to start the game and went streaking to the basket early, going on a 10-0 run from the opening tip-off, a stretch that featured two treys by junior guard Kristen Gengenbacher. Morton senior forward Sarah Livingston’s free throw at 5:16 in the quarter halted the stretch, but QND owned a 12-1 lead, which they extended to 24-5 going into the second half.

A trey by freshman guard Chandler Ryan early in the second quarter, helped Morton (30-5) cut QND’s lead, 28-8, with 5:07 left, but a basket by junior forward Mary Beth Hugenberg, two free throws by senior guard Kassidy Gengenbacher, and a shot off the glass by senior guard Jordan Frericks, send the Lady Raiders streaking a second time on a 5-0 run. That gave them a 35-8 lead en route to a 36-18 advantage at half.

After two free throws by Morton’s Ryan closed the gap, 38-20, at 6:54 in the third quarter, QND went on a 9-0 stretch, featuring a trey by Kristen Gengenbacher, with 4:47 left in the quarter. Byrne hit a trey at 5:22, cutting the Lady Raiders’ lead, 47-23. Morton’s defense held QND to just two more successful baskets, while its own offense regrouped, led by two jumpers from Byrne, and a layup from Ryan, cutting QND’s lead to 53-34 going into the fourth quarter.

Morton came within 17 twice in the fourth quarter on treys by Ryan and sophomore guard Emma Heisler but no closer, as QND pushed toward the final buzzer.

Kassidy Gengenbacher led QND in double figures with 15 points. She was followed by Kristen Gengenbacher’s 13 points, Frerick’s 12, and 10 from Hugenberg.

Ryan had 18 for Morton, leading all scorers. She was followed in double figures by Byrne’s 15 and 10 from Livingston.

“I’m just so glad we got off right now that we got off to that start in the first quarter,” said QND head coach Eric Orne. “I knew if Morton started making their shots like they did in the second half, it was going to be a ball game.”

“These girls work so hard in practice every day (and) just love the game,” said Orne told reporters after the contest. “Morton (is) a tough matchup. The Livingston girl down low is tremendous and very athletic. She and Byrne are a tough assignment. Montini’s got their hands full tomorrow.

“I had (Morton junior guard) Kaitlyn Byrne most of the game,” explained QND senior guard Jordan Frericks. “Just putting the pressure on their guard was the key tonight, and not let them on the inside. We did a good job of keeping that pressure on.”

Morton head coach Bob Becker, in complimenting QND, told reporters, “They are well-coached and they have some great players. On our end, I still think we’re a pretty good team. We showed glimpses of it. Obviously, for us to be down 19 by the end of the first quarter, we dug ourselves a hole that was a little bit too much.

“I give our kids credit that our kids kept battling, and they had so many runs, and showed some flashes of the team that I really know this season,” Becker added. “Our hats are, definitely, off to Quincy Notre Dame.”

When the Lady Potters were down early in the quarter, Byrne explained later, “We just had to keep fighting, and getting the ball to open players. We just tried to keep competing and keep making it a close game.”

Lady Potters junior guard Abbie Cox said winning Saturday’s contest against Montini “is extremely important because no one wants to end their season on a loss. We’re definitely going to come out against Montini and give it our best because we really have nothing to lose. So, we’re going to try to beat our school record of fourth place, trying for third place.”

NORMAL – The Players from Normal West High reminded Morton High School’s girls’ basketball team Friday that, in order to win, sometimes, you need to watch your back. Although the Potters breezed through 2 ½ quarters of play, the other 1 ½ served as a reminder that some victories come because a team has been battle-tested.

But the reminder was well-heeded, as Morton nearly doubled-up on the Wildcats, 52-27, in a third round contest of the State Farm Bloomington-Normal Holiday Tournament Friday. This contest was held at Normal Community High School.

As a result of the victory, the Potters will take on Chicago Morgan Park for a shot at winning fifth place in the overall tournament’s Large Schools Girls Division. That game will begin with a 7:30p.m. tip-off at Normal Community West High School at 501 N. Parkside Rd.

Morton (12-3) seemed to breeze through the first quarter of play, thanks to a game-opening three by Chandler Ryan. That was followed by deuces by Bella Jackson and Jadison Wharram, giving the Potters a 7-0 start before two free throws by Tia Robertson slowed the Potters’ momentum. Kennola Thomas provided the bulk of West’s scoring in the opening period, including a trey at 2:45 and two free throws, at 1:23, having been fouled by Morton’s Emily Schultz. That cut Morton’s lead, 13-7. But Morton would open the second quarter with a 17-9 lead.

A deuce and adjoining free throw by Desiree Evans at 5:20 in the second quarter were the only points the Wildcats would score in the period. With Chandler Ryan, Sarah Livingston, and Abbie Cox leading the charge, Morton outscored West 13-3 in the period, owning a 30-12 halftime lead.

But the Wildcats opened the third quarter with a 9-0 run with a trey and deuce by Ashley Wickenhauser, and deuces by Thomas and Kaiyla Brooks, cutting Morton’s advantage, 30-21. But that was as close as they would come, as Ryan, Livingston, and Schultz added more deuces to their team total.

The Potters owned a 38-27 advantage entering the fourth quarter. In fact, the bucket made by West’s Abby Thompson in the closing seconds of the third quarter were the last points the Wildcats would have in the game. Morton would outscore West, 14-0, in the final stanza.

Ryan and Kaitlyn Byrne were the only Morton players in double figures, with 17 and 11 points, respectfully. No Normal West player achieved double-figures, although Kennola Thomas came close with seven points.

The Wildcats’ early third quarter play showed Morton that Friday’s opponents “had some quality players and they play fairly deep,” Potters head coach Bob Becker said. “They really outplayed us the first four minutes of that third quarter, and really, there was a stretch of three minutes in the second quarter where I thought they outplayed our kids.

“I thought we rebounded better (today) than we did (Thursday) night against Rock Island,” Becker added. “I thought we did a more consistent job on the boards. I thought we could do some things better, but we had stretches of pretty good play.”

On numerous occasions during the contest, Lady Potters defenders did manage to keep the Wildcats from making baskets, boxing them out of the paint. It was a defensive tactic Becker said he was pleased to see, considering that the night before against Rock Island. “(Thursday) night, I thought we were horrible on the boards,” Becker said. “Today, we were more physical and it showed because we kept (West) from getting multiple shot attempts, for the most part.”

“The third quarter was, probably, the only time we played the way that we’re supposed to,” explained disappointed Normal West head coach Angie Codron. “It was nice to see we could play a little bit like that, even if it was just during the third quarter.

“We talk all the time about communication (while on the court),” Codron added. “We weren’t communicating with each other. It seemed as though we were on a different page.”

NORMAL – Morton High School head football coach Jason Thiry said he knew going into his team’s game against University High that his team would have to score at least four times to earn the victory against the Pioneers.

The Potters encountered two blocked punts by their hosts and came up one score short of their goal, as U-High defeated Morton, 35-21, at Hancock Stadium on Saturday.

U-High (1-0) marched 80 yards on 13 plays to earn the first score of the game, a two-yard pass from sophomore quarterback Arion Worthman to junior wide receiver Kane Wildermuth with 7:58 left in the first quarter. Junior kicker Luke Otto’s extra point put the Pioneers up, 7-0.

Morton (0-1) tied the score, 7-all, on a 25-yard touchdown pass when senior quarterback David Rossi connected with senior wide receiver Chase Taphorn with 1:57 left in the quarter. Senior kicker Connor Kindred’s extra point tied the score.

The Potters took a 14-7 lead when Rossi used a keeper play, rushing for 3 yards for a score with 3:10 left in the second quarter, followed by Kindred’s next extra point.

U-High closed the gap to 14-13 as Worthman connected for a second time with Wildermuth on a 45 yard touchdown score. But, to the surprise of the fans, Otto’s extra point strayed, smacking the goalpost’s right upright. It was a lead Morton owned going into halftime.

The Pioneers retook the lead early in the third quarter on a 12 yard run by junior running back Joe Johnson with 9:16 left in the third quarter, giving U-High a 20-14 lead after another successful Otto kick.

U-High’s first blocked Morton punt of the day came courtesy of senior defensive back Zach Zook with 8:04 in the third quarter. The block resulted in the Pioneers starting on their next possession on the Morton 5 yard line. Two plays later, Worthman dashed past defenders for a 1-yard touchdown. The Pioneers used a two-point conversion run by senior wide receiver Troy McBride to increase their lead, 28-14.

Morton’s final score came when Rossi connected with Taphorn a second time, for a 25- yard touchdown strike with 7:50 left in the contest, followed by another Kindred extra point.

U-High’s final score came into play thanks to defensive back Wildermuth and senior defensive back Dylan Farney blocking another Morton punt. Worthman would score shortly after that on a one-yard run. Otto’s extra point would lead to the eventual final score.

“We were happy to get out with a win because Morton is a really good football team,” U-High head coach Dusty Burk said afterward. “Obviously, special teams stepped up for us and played a key part in the game. Those two punt blocks were turning points in the football game.

“We’re happy with how our kids came out and attacked in the third quarter,” Burk continued. “I thought, overall that offense, defense, and special teams did a lot of good things. Obviously, being week one, we need to go watch film and find out about the things we need to improve upon, but, I’m certainly happy with the kids’ effort.”

“The style of offense U-High plays told us we were going to have to score at least four times to beat them today,” explained Thiry. “They beat us up front today and that was the big thing. They blocked two punts. When you get beat on the line on both sides of the ball and you give up special team plays like that, you’re not going to win football games.”

Morton players Chase Taphorn and Drew Taphorn are the sons of former Illinois State University basketball player Matt Taphorn.

Bloomington Central Catholic will host University High Friday at 7p.m. as part of the Intercity Doubleheader. NCHS will host Bloomington High School Friday at 7p.m. at Ironmen Field as part of that event. The games are being held in separate locations this year because of the renovations taking place during the week at the traditional site for the two-game event, Hancock Stadium at Illinois State University.

Also as a result of the renovation, U-High will play football on Saturdays for the next two seasons.

NORMAL – One might call the Thursday’s Class 3A-4A semifinal contest between unbeatens Morton and Champaign Centennial at the Bloomington State Farm Holiday Classic a passive-aggressive affair.

For two quarters, the Lady Potters were passive. For four quarters, Champaign Centennial was aggressive. Playing in those states can be costly for a team, and Morton paid the price, dropping its first game of the season to the Chargers, 46-36, at Normal Community High School.

Morton (11-1) will face Park Ridge Maine South at Shirk Center on the Illinois Wesleyan University campus Friday, starting with a 9a.m. tip.

Morton trailed after one quarter, 15-5, with three buckets by junior forward Chelsea Cross and a trey by junior guard Chantal Meacham at 5:23, aiding in putting the Chargers out front early.

Morton opened the second quarter with an 11-0 barrage, which was started with back-to-back deuces by sophomore guard Kate Byrne, and a trey by senior guard Lexi Ellis. That helped cut Centennial’s lead to 22-18 at halftime.

Champaign (12-0) pulled out further in the third quarter on a 6-0 run with baskets by junior guard Stacia Simmons, junior forward Chelsea Cross, and sophomore center Jasmine Kyler. The Chargers owned a 34-23 lead going into the fourth quarter.

Baskets by Cross and Meacham, as well as a trey by Meacham at 5:04 left in the game helped push the Chargers to victory.

The Chargers had three players in double figures, with Meacham and Cross leading the way with 13 points each, followed by 12 from Stacia Simmons.

Junior guard Sarah Livingston was the only Lady Potter in double figures, netting 15 points while snatching 9 rebounds, and senior guard Cortney Allenbaugh retrieved 7.

Champaign Centennial head coach Susan Thomas said she and her squad “knew we were going to get a very disciplined team (in Morton) that was going to take care of the basketball.

“For us to force the turnovers that we wanted to force, we had to play a very disciplined defense,” Thomas said. “And, of course, we told them we have to be mindful of where Livingston is on the floor at all times. I thought our girls did a nice job, especially in the first three quarters making (Livingston) work really, really hard to receive the ball.”

“We told our girls we just have to forget this one and be ready to go tomorrow,” explained Lady Potters head coach Bob Becker.

“We had a poor start to the game, for sure,” Becker said. “We need to be in games like this against good teams to get better, and if we attack those with the right mindset, we will get better.

“Obviously, we didn’t shoot the ball real well, whether it was because we were rushed or hurried,” Becker said, adding his team was “a bit tentative” in the second half, adding to their difficulties.

“Champaign’s a good team, so I have to give them some credit,” Becker added. “I thought they were the aggressor, and that we were a little more passive than they were.

“Most of the time, the aggressor wins,” Becker concluded, later stating he wanted his team to pick up on winning beginning Friday. “Our goal is to continue to work hard and get better. Teams will either continue to get better or stay the same by the end (of the season), so, if we can learn from these experiences, I think we’re a team that has potential to be really good.”

BLOOMINGTON – The opening round contest between Morton High and Springfield Sacred Heart Griffin High at the Bloomington-Normal State Farm Holiday Tournament was a study in contrasts.

Seeming to be clicking on all cylinders, Morton led from the opening tip and never looked back while SHG struggled to find themselves near the basket or in position to score while on the court. The result was a lopsided 49-19 victory for head coach Bob Becker’s crew on the tourney’s opening day.

As a result of the victory, the sixth seeded Lady Potters (12-0) will face second seed Rock Island at U. S. Cellular Coliseum in Bloomington in a second round game, starting with the 9p.m. tip.

Junior standout Sarah Livingston scored the game’s first points at 7:15 in the first quarter, registering a layup, but free throws by senior guard Cortney Allenbaugh and sophomore guard Emily Schultz helped push Morton to a fast 10-1 lead by the end of the first quarter.

Livingston and Schultz helped give Morton a 14-3 lead at the beginning of the second quarter, joined by a trey by senior guard Lexi Ellis, giving Morton a 19-5 advantage at 5:15 in the period. A three-pointer by SHG senior forward Corinne Brent with 50 seconds left gave Morton a 21-10 lead at the half.

Although Livingston had been on the court for much the contest, she made her presence known in the third quarter, scoring 12 of her game-high 16 points and contributing five rebounds in the period. Morton Sophomore guard Emily Schultz followed up with 13 points. No Cyclones players reached double-figures in the contest. Such stats helped the Potters own a 43-12 lead going into the fourth quarter.

“She was pretty dominant the third quarter,” Becker said of his 6 foot-2 junior. “Our whole team was pretty dominant in that quarter, but we really clicked around Sarah (that quarter). I don’t even remember if I took her out (of the game) in the third quarter because I thought she was playing well enough to stay on the floor.

A single basket by sophomore forward Kelsi Dahms and back-to-back buckets as time wound down by senior forward Liz Schultz helped aid in the Lady Potters’ victory.

SHG sophomore forward Laura Brenniesen scored five of the 4-9 Cyclones’ last seven point on the afternoon in the fourth quarter.

“I thought we came out and played, really, locked down defense the third quarter, and really, the second half,” explained Lady Potters head coach Bob Becker. “That’s what we want to be and hang our hat on is (to) defend and rebound consistently at a high level.

“Shots fell in a little bit better the second half than the first half,” Becker added. “My coaches and I thought we were a little soft in the first half, maybe we weren’t as tough with the ball then.” He attributed that type of play to his players having had a few days away from the court over the first few days of the school’s holiday break before settling into a regular basketball routine again.

“Our biggest problem this year has been making shots,” Springfield Sacred Heart head coach Mario Borders admitted afterward. “Again today, our offense struggled to score. Our defense wasn’t bad. Up to now, Morton had been scoring in the 60s and we held them to 49. But, we didn’t score and we gave up to many offensive rebounds early. This is the kind of thing that will test us and we need to find a way to bounce back tomorrow.”