CICERO – Morton’s boys basketball team might be forgiven for not feeling entirely familiar with its home court.
The Mustangs haven’t played a home game yet this season, although Friday’s big game against Proviso East will end the long string of road games.
“It’s like the circus trip,” Morton coach Tony Martinucci said with a laugh, referring the the Chicago Bulls’ annual exodus when the circus comes to town. “It’s going to be nice to play the first game at home.”
Both teams in Friday’s game enter with undefeated records in the West Suburban Gold. Hinsdale South also could be in the running in the conference, but the Hornets lost to Proviso East 60-50 Friday for their first WSG loss.
The long season-opening run of road games, 11 in total, didn’t seem to adversely impact Morton. The Mustangs are 8-3.
“It will be nice because we’re at home the second half of the year,” Martinucci said. “The bus rides have been pretty quick so I don’t think it’s really affected [the kids]. Hinsdale South is good, but this is probably the biggest game in the conference.”
Since Morton is having an institute day on Friday there will be no school. Martinucci is hoping that won’t impact the size of the crowd.
Regardless, there is more familiarity between the two rivals since they met at the Proviso West Holiday Tournament. Proviso East won that game 74-70 in overtime after Morton led most of the way and had multiple chances to hit a game-winning shot in the final minute of regulation.
“We went and scouted them against Hinsdale South,” Martinucci said. “It was almost identical to our game, but it was closer.”
The Hornets led early, but eventually succumbed to the Pirates’ pressure. East features senior guard Jevon Carter, a West Virginia recruit, and has plenty of depth to run its high-pressure defense in waves.
Martinucci said the keys Friday will be making free throws and limiting turnovers as much as possible.
“You got to make your free throws and withstand the runs,” Martinucci said. “Physically we’ll be OK. You just can’t have 25 turnovers. You got to keep it under 20.”
Morton, which beat Leyden 74-48 Friday, is 3-0 in the Gold, like Proviso East.
“The conference still goes through Proviso,” Martinucci said. “That’s the way its been other than the couple years we’ve won it.
“There’s a reason why. There’s tradition and they play hard.”