MORTON — Four state championships in five years speaks volumes about the Morton High School girls basketball program.
So does a 164-13 record during those years including an incredible 31-1 mark in the postseason, and five consecutive Mid-Illini Conference championships.
On Sunday, with the basketballs put away, the spotlight shone on other elements of the Potters' program that are just as important as gaudy statistics and titles.
After winning another Class 3A state championship Saturday at Redbird Arena in Normal and finishing the season with a 33-3 record, Morton players and coaches didn't get their usual ride through the village Sunday atop a fire truck because temperatures were in the teens and it was snowing.
Instead, the Morton entourage rode in school buses — accompanied by a fire truck and police cars, sirens blaring — and was cheered by a smattering of folks along the route before heading inside the Potterdome at the high school for a warm reception.
Players and coaches were greeted with a standing ovation as they walked into the gym introduced one-by-one by game P.A. announcer Brian Newman, and the players sat down and patiently signed autographs at a long table following a short program and photo op.
"I'm sad there won't be practice Monday," Morton coach Bob Becker said to about 150 well-wishers in the Potterdome bleachers. "It's a long season, but it flies by when you love what you're doing and you're with people you love."
Senior Tenley Dowell, a fierce competitor on the court who is headed to Butler University to play Division I basketball, broke down and cried as she told the crowd the past four years playing basketball for Morton were the best four years of her life.
Junior Lindsey Dullard, who has made a verbal commitment to play D-1 basketball at Alabama-Birmingham, thanked Morton coaches for challenging her. She called her teammates best friends and sisters.
"I love you all," she said.
Becker said his team's "it" factor this season was having a group of great teammates.
His daughter Maddy Becker suffered a knee injury during the sectional semifinals and was sidelined for the rest of the season.
"That would have devastated many teams, to lose a starter in the postseason," the coach said. "But our team rallied behind Maddy. They didn't want to let their sister down.
"When you think about it, we're all teammates in the world. If you're a good teammate, you'll be a champion in whatever you do in life."
Matthew Jones' daughters, Caylie and Courtney Jones, now have five state championships between them.
Caylie, a freshman basketball player at Illinois Wesleyan University, was on the 2015, 2016 and 2017 Morton state title teams. She was part of a class that won 130 games in four years.
Her sister Courtney has won state titles in 2017 and 2019. She's a junior at Morton.
Their father has observed the off-court lessons his daughters have learned from being part of the Morton program.
"Girls are immersed in the tradition, culture and sisterhood of the Morton program, and they learn the value of being a good teammate," he said.
Jones puts together the Morton team's website. As part of that role, he asks departing players what they'll remember most about playing for Morton.
"For the most part, they say the off-court stuff, like the fun times they had on a bus or in a restaurant. The girls are friends forever," he said.
Becker said the players on this year's team are more than just basketball players.
"They're multi-sport athletes and multi-talented. The team has a cumulative 4.0 grade-point average," he said. "I'm a little biased, but I think they're the best of the best at our school. They're great people first.
"Our expectations as a team are off the charts. Probably not fair. But these girls were able to meet those expectations this season."
Steve Stein can be reached at (248) 224-2616 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.