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Boys Basketball: Morgan Park defeats Rich Central

Rich Central's John Daniels IV drives lane is fouled by Morgan Park's Lamous Brown Thornridge High School March 5 2014.

Rich Central's John Daniels IV drives the lane and is fouled by Morgan Park's Lamous Brown at Thornridge High School on March 5, 2014. | Jim Karczewski\Sun-Times Media

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Updated: April 7, 2014 1:20PM



State championship or bust.

Lamont Walker had plenty of time to think about another state title with Morgan Park last playing Feb. 16, falling to Young in the Public League quarterfinals.

Maybe a little too much time to think.

Beginning its 3A state title defense, Morgan Park overcame a sluggish, sloppy effort, putting things together in the second half Wednesday night to defeat Rich Central 83-55 in a Class 3A Thornridge Regional semifinal.

“Coming back from last year’s state championship team, we want to get back down there again,” Walker said. “We’ve been off for two weeks, and we’re happy to be back in the gym playing our game.”

Walker finished with 24 points and eight rebounds to lead Morgan Park (17-6). Josh Cunningham (12 points), Jarrin Randle (11) and Alonzo Chatman (9) also contributed.

The Mustangs advance to Friday’s regional title game.

Coach Nick Irvin’s squad was up by 14 points at halftime, but it was far from a pretty 14-point lead. Making it worse? A feisty Rich Central squad wasn’t intimidated.

Marcus Smith hit a free throw and a pull-up jumper while John Daniels hit a midrange jumper in quick succession in the third period as the Olympians energized the crowd.

“I knew it’d be a struggle that first game,” Irvin said. “We were sluggish, and late in the game we picked it up a little bit. We’ll be ready to go Friday.”

Walker, who was Morgan Park’s lone offensive player clicking to that point, stepped it up when his squad needed it most. The senior swingman converted a three-point play, then found a cutting Cunningham for an alley-oop dunk.

Walker’s midrange jumper on a fast break and Chatman’s score inside regained the momentum for the Mustangs, their lead extended to 53-29 during the lightning-quick 9-0 run in just over a minute.

Cunningham, saddled with foul trouble in the first half, made the most of his return to the court in the second. He scored 10 of his 12 points in the second half, including a highlight-reel one-handed fast-break dunk late in the third.

“(Lamont and I), we knew as seniors we needed to put the game away so we tried to run and (finish it),” Cunningham said. “If I didn’t score, it didn’t matter. I wanted to play defense and rebound, because that’s what we struggled with early.”

For Irvin, the performance came as no surprise.

“Lamont and Josh, they’ve been there before,” Irvin said. “They know exactly what to do. They’re going to lead, and we’re going to follow. That’s their role.”

Arthur Sutton (11 points), William Berry (10) and Quentin Jones (8) led Rich Central (8-17).

South Carolina basketball coach Frank Martin was in attendance Wednesday at Thornridge.



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