BARTLETT – After a first half that Morton fans could only dream of, the Mustangs lost the sectional final to shock themselves and their massive fan support.
When Greg Carter and Keandre Townes both missed layups that would have given Morton the lead in the final seconds against Glenbard North, it seemed the team was in disbelief that they had actually lost. Carter, who was unstoppable the last month of the season and put the team on his back during the two sectional games, scored 21 points in the first quarter alone, but the Panthers won 84-81 after Morton led by 20 points at halftime.
“The big thing first half to second half was they switched to that zone and a 3-2 high, extended it,” Weisner Perez said.”That hurt us right there, but we got to learn from this one. We needed more poise. We started to rush things. They started coming back.”
Morton led by as many as 22 points after Carter’s first quarter show and Jarvis Cannon’s 13 points in the second quarter. The Panthers made a run early in the third quarter and got back within four by the end of the frame. North’s first lead of the game came with 1:39 left.
The Panthers led 82-77 with just under a minute remaining, but the Mustangs got baskets from Cannon and Carter and then a pair of stops to have one last chance. Down one with 13.7 seconds left, Carter drove the lane to get a close layup, but it bounced out and Townes’ follow also missed. North grabbed the rebound and scored a transition layup at the buzzer.
“The bottom line is they made one more play than we did,” Morton coach Tony Martinucci said.
The loss marked the end of a memorable playoff run for Morton. The Mustangs won their first regional title since 2009 and enjoyed impressive fan support as regional hosts and brought the biggest crowd of the four teams at the Bartlett sectional.
“It was going all around school, ‘Go support the boys,’” Perez said. “We had about 15 fan buses, I believe, so you can see it was a big difference. It’s tough to lose in front of that huge crowd. We’ve gotten a lot farther than other teams that have come before us.”
The Mustangs survived the sectional semifinal with York after three overtimes in a game Martinucci said was one of the best high school games he’d been a part of. Those dramatic moments led the way for more drama Friday.
Senior guards Carter and Cannon did so much down the stretch run of the season, but Perez and a number of junior contributors will be back with high expectations again.
“We had our ups and downs, but we definitely came back together as a team and grew real nicely,” Perez said. “The seniors, they’re going to be dearly missed.
“Hopefully we’ll get back here, if not further.”