By Tim O’Brien
Sitting in the locker room before Friday night’s sectional title game, Morgan Park coach Nick Irvin offered his team a simple thought.
“Let’s make history tonight.”
Winning the program’s first ever sectional title, Morgan Park defeated Perspectives-Calumet 67-31 Friday in the Class 3A St. Laurence Sectional title game in Burbank.
“We needed to get over this hump to get our ultimate goal (winning state),” Irvin said. “It feels real good right now.”
Kyle Davis scored 22 points and had four steals to lead Morgan Park (30-3). Josh Cunningham (13 points) and Billy Garrett Jr. (12 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds) got it done offensively as well. The Mustangs will face Hillcrest, winners over Rich East, Tuesday at the Joliet Central Supersectional at 7:30 p.m.
Morgan Park has qualified for the state tournament three times, including winning the 1975-1976 Class 2A state title, but the Mustangs always advanced as the Public League’s state representative.
“This win means a lot for us, especially winning the first sectional title,” Garrett Jr. said. “No matter what the score, it feels good. We have to get past this though and move on to Tuesday.”
As has been the case so often this season, Morgan Park’s defense provided a spark. The Mustangs scored 14 first half baskets, 10 of them coming on the fast break off of steals and defensive rebounds.
Davis scored six and Cunningham four of his own as Morgan Park went up 13-3 late in the first quarter. Keeping the pressure up into the second, the Mustangs reeled off a 14-0 run in just over three minutes to go up 29-6. After a Garrett Jr. fast break floater and one-handed slam dunk, Davis punctuated the offensive spurt with his own fast-break bucket, his fifth basket in the first half.
“Not many people think that Public League teams play defense, but with this team right here, it’s what we feed off of,” Davis said. “Defense turns into offense. We know we can score on the other end. We just have to lock it down.”
Perspectives-Calumet (16-12) committed 15 first half turnovers, 10 alone in the second quarter, while shooting just 3-of-25 from the field as the Warriors fell behind 33-8 at halftime.
Morgan Park was far from sharp offensively Friday night, but the struggles were relative as the Mustangs’ athleticism proved to be too much at both ends.
Morgan Park and Hillcrest have faced off in the playoffs the last two years. Hillcrest won last season’s matchup, a 59-48 victory, in the sectional finals.
Brandon Taylor scored 13 points for Perspectives Calumet.