NORMAL — One more for four.
Third-ranked Morton pulled together a 65-51 victory over No. 4 LaGrange Park Nazareth in the Class 3A girls basketball state semifinal on Friday at Redbird Arena. This puts the Potters (32-3) in line to capture their fourth state championship in five years, facing unranked Glen Ellyn Glenbard South (27-7) at 1 p.m. Saturday.
But before Morton could play on the final day of the 3A season for the fifth time in seven seasons, the Potters needed to calm some early game nerves. An 11-4 deficit faced Morton as it entered the second quarter.
“The sign of a champion is to get knocked down at times but more importantly, get back up, and that’s what our team has done,” Morton coach Bob Becker said. "They’ve persevered and been driven all season.”
A 10-point run to open the game’s second eight minutes came from four different players. Tenley Dowell and Lindsey Dullard combined to hit 3 of 4 free throws in the first 78 seconds to end a Potter scoring drought of three minutes and 40 seconds.
Katie Krupa followed those freebies with a backdoor lay-in off a nice dish from Dullard. Courtney Jones then knocked down a pair of free throws, tying the game at 11-11 with 4:35 before halftime.
One possession later saw Dullard drive and kick it to Dowell on the left wing, just beyond the arc. The 6-foot guard sank the 3-pointer and gave Morton its first lead of the game, 14-11 at the 3:54 mark.
“I was little nervous at first,” Dullard said. “In warmups, I wasn’t making a lot of my shots, so it kind of (carried over) to the game. Once Tenley started getting us up … it kind of helped and so we started making shots.”
Dullard scored 17 points for Morton, which finished 20-for-40 (50 percent) from the field.
Dowell finished with a game-high 24 points on an efficient 7-for-9 shooting effort, adding eight rebounds.
“I think everybody was just a little nervous,” the Butler recruit said. “It’s a big stage, a big atmosphere. I knew we needed to start scoring a little bit — that’s how we were going to win. … We started to be more intense and everyone just started getting more into the flow of the game.”
The teams traded buckets over the next 2:03 before Krupa put Morton ahead for good. The 6-foot-1 freshmen completed an old-fashioned three-point play for a 21-18 lasting lead.
Krupa continued her coming out party in the third quarter as the Potters led 23-18 at the half.
Two free throws from Kaylen Evans cut the Potters lead to 26-25 just 2:23 into the second half. However, Krupa responded with seven of the game’s next 12 points to provide a 36-27 cushion.
“(Getting the ball inside) was in our game plan, we do have an advantage with height down low,” said Krupa, who finished with 17 points and five rebounds. “Once we started getting it down low and started attacking, that’s when we started building intensity and confidence. That’s what we needed to do.”
That helped jump start Morton, which was able to extend its lead to 42-30, 54-40 and 59-46 over the course of the game’s final eight-plus minutes.
The Potters controlled the paint — scoring 34 points and winning the rebounding battle, 38-23.
“We wanted to attack the paint,” Becker said. “We wanted to dominate and own the paint at both ends of the floor.”
As great as the Potters played in the final three quarters, Nazareth (31-4) opened the game by jumping out to a seven-point advantage. Evans and Annie Stritzel combined to score all 11 of the Roadrunners’ first-frame points.
It also helped Nazareth that Morton was held to 22.2 percent (2-for-9) shooting, turning the ball over six times and managing just two rebounds in the first quarter.
“Things were going our way,” Nazareth coach Eddie Stritzel said. “We knew we had to keep scoring though. We weren’t going to shut Morton down. … I thought late first quarter, mid-second (quarter), I thought that’s when things really bogged down for us. They took the momentum of the game … ”
Stritzel finished with 17 points on 8-for-18 shooting. Evans also scored 17 points, hitting 50 percent (7-of-14) of her shots. Nazareth’s other three starters — Sophia Cullotta, Jovanna Martinucci and Franchesca Metz — combined to shoot 3-for-18 (16.7 percent) and score just eight points.
In the other semifinal, Glenbard South used a fourth-quarter surge to beat Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin, 32-27.
Maggie Bair scored six of her game-high 16 points in the final frame as the Raiders, who finished fourth last season, trailed by two entering the final eight minutes. Bair added 13 rebounds, five steals and three blocks.
Payton Vorreyer scored 12 points and pulled down seven rebounds for SHG (29-7), which led by as many as seven in the first quarter.
Adam Duvall can be reached at 686-3214 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @AdamDuvall.