MAYWOOD – Weisner Perez and Morton’s boys basketball team needed to make a statement.
The Mustangs did just that Saturday, topping Proviso East 78-63 in the teams’ third meeting of the season.
“East is one of the top teams in the conference,” junior forward Perez said. “Right now they’re No. 1. We needed to make a big statement.”
The Mustangs blew golden opportunities in the first two meetings with the West Suburban Gold-leading Pirates, but they left no doubt Saturday in Maywood. Morton’s win pulled it to within one game in the conference standings before both teams played games Tuesday.
After losing two incredibly close games, a 74-70 overtime loss at the Proviso West Holiday Tournament and a 66-60 loss in Cicero that went down to the final minute, earlier in the season, the Mustangs didn’t allow this one to be close.
Perez went off for 20 points and 13 rebounds. Senior guard Greg Carter scored 24 points and was the difference in the game while Perez struggled with foul trouble and ultimately fouled out.
Carter, who also had seven assists, was key in helping Morton limit its turnovers. The Mustangs had only 14 after turning the ball over more than 20 times in each of the previous two games against East.
“I thought that was the best game he ever played,” coach Tony Martinucci said of Carter. “He only had four turnovers and he handled the ball the whole time.”
Jarvis Cannon and Dexter Dale each scored 12 points for Morton to give the team an all-around effort.
Martinucci said the Mustangs had already proved they can played with the Pirates in terms of talent, but he will always go back to one point with his team – free throw shooting. Morton shot well from the line while the Pirates were just 9-for-25.
“The key to the whole thing is 29 out of 34 from the foul line,” Martinucci said. “If we make our free throws we can play with almost anybody.”
East was coming off of a 92-86 win at Hinsdale South in triple overtime the night before and had to turn around for a 2:30 p.m. tip. Regardless, the win was a confidence booster for Morton.
“We knew this game was going to be huge,” Perez said. “It’s supposed to be one of the toughest places to play at. Winning this will help us for seeding for playoffs, which is coming up shortly, and it boosts morale. Coach said we are playing our best ball at the right time.”
The Mustangs will learn their playoff fate later this week. Seeds will be announced Thursday and the draw will come out Friday.
“I think we should still end up with a top three seed,” Martinucci said.