There are many reasons why the Morton girls basketball team is ranked No. 1 in Class 3A.

A big one is the Potters never take a night off.

That was evident Saturday at Hawkins Gym. Morton's offense was crisp and defense was smothering in a 77-33 win over Pekin in a Mid-Illini Conference game.

"This group is incredibly consistent," said Morton coach Bob Becker. "They always want to play at a high level. We say respect all and fear none when it comes to our opponents. Pekin wasn't going to roll over for us. We needed to play well, and we did."

The Dragons (9-15, 2-9) did their best against the Potters (25-1, 11-0), who have won 22 straight.

Pekin is young -- there are only two seniors on the roster -- and the Dragons were short-handed Saturday with Jenna Taphorn (back) and Natalie Johnson (knee) out with injuries. Johnson hasn't played all season.

Maddy Cash, Pekin's leading scorer, jammed a finger on her right hand late in the third quarter and didn't play again.

"I give our girls a lot of credit," said Pekin coach Becky Fulkerson. "They kept fighting and battling. They could have said, 'We're done,' but they didn't.

"Morton's core is very experienced. We'll get there eventually."

Cash scored six points before her night was done. The 5-foot-8 senior now has 983 points for the career, just 17 shy of the 1,000 mark.

When Cash reaches that plateau, she'll become only the second Pekin girls basketball player to score 1,000 points since the team's debut in 1973. Sydney Diekhoff ended her career last season with 1,678 points.

Meanwhile, Morton is rolling toward what could be a fourth consecutive Class 3A state championship.

Tenley Dowell led the Potters' attack Saturday with 24 points, 17 in the first half. The 6-0 junior crossed the 1,000-point career threshold earlier this month.

Lindsey Dullard and Kassidy Shurman each tossed in a dozen points against Pekin (Shurman had four triples, one in each quarter) and Courtney Jones contributed nine points.

All 14 Morton players got into the game, and 10 scored.

"Our girls played with energy and confidence, and they were loose. Everyone made a contribution," Becker said. "We want to keep improving and stay healthy. Our chemistry is great. This is a great group to be around."

Morton shot 53 percent (30-for-57) from the field against Pekin including 9-for-22 on triples. Defensively, the Potters hounded the Dragons into 21 turnovers and Pekin shot 26 percent (9-for-34) from the field.

Lauren Juergens scored nine points for Pekin and Megan Nelson had eight.
Juergens had a bucket to start the game, then Morton reeled off a dozen straight points, six by Dowell. The Potters led 22-7 after the first quarter, 40-14 at halftime and 61-24 after three quarters.

Morton beat Pekin 72-36 when the teams met Dec. 16 at the Potterdome.
Saturday's game was only the sixth home game of the season for the Dragons.

They'll stay at Hawkins Gym for games against Mid-Illini rival Canton (19-5, 9-2) at 7 p.m. Friday and non-conference opponent East Moline United Township (12-11) at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.

Next for Morton is a conference game at Limestone (6-16, 3-8) at 7 p.m. Friday.

Steve Stein can be reached at stevestein21@yahoo.com. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.