Boys Basketball: Morgan Park intent on bringing home program’s second state title
By Pat Disabato email@example.com March 14, 2013 8:20PM
Billy Garrett Jr., of Morgan Park. | Gary Middendorf~For Sun-Times Media
(All games at
Peoria Civic Center)
FRIDAY’S CLASS 3A SEMIFINALS
Limestone (24-9) vs.
Morgan Park (31-3), 12:15 p.m.
Orr (23-2) vs.
Cahokia (32-3), 2 p.m.
FRIDAY’S CLASS 4A SEMIFINALS
Proviso East (29-3) vs.
Simeon (28-3), 6:30 p.m.
Edwardsville (30-2) vs.
Stevenson (28-4), 8:15 p.m.
Third place, 12:15 p.m.
Championship, 2 p.m.
Third place, 6:30 p.m.
Championship, 8:15 p.m.
Updated: April 16, 2013 4:04PM
Morgan Park coach Nick Irvin often reminds his team the heralded program hasn’t won a state basketball championship since 1976.
Irvin, 35, wasn’t even born when Morgan Park defeated Aurora West 45-44 in the ’76 Class AA title game.
“I talk to them about it every practice,” Irvin said. “We gather around in a circle and I have them turn around and look up at the (Class AA) state championship banner.”
The pressure of winning another state championship certainly hasn’t had an adverse effect on the Mustangs.
Morgan Park has had its way with the competition all season, most notable during its dominant playoff run. The Mustangs have outscored their five Class 3A playoff foes by an average of 89.8-43.4.
The Mustangs barely have broken a sweat in chewing up Julian, 107-40; St. Laurence, 86-53; Fenger, 112-49; Perspectives Charter/Leadership, 67-31; and Hillcrest, 77-44.
Next up: Limestone.
The Rockets (24-9) and Mustangs (31-3) meet at 12:15 p.m. Friday in a Class 3A state semifinal at Peoria’s Civic Center.
The winner advances to Saturday’s championship game at 2 p.m. against the winner of the Orr-Cahokia semifinal.
“We just have to keep doing what we’ve been doing,” Irvin said. “One thing I always tell them (players) is to play everyone the same. Don’t look at the front of the jersey. Look at everyone like they’re Simeon or Whitney Young.
“The one thing we have to do is match their (Limestone) intensity. I know (Hank) Mathews can really shoot the ball. They have a couple of slashers and they like to play uptempo.”
Uptempo or halfcourt game, nothing very little has prevented the Mustangs from achieving victory.
Of Morgan Park’s three losses, two were to Class 4A powers Simeon (53-51 final), which is attempting to win its fourth straight state title this weekend, and Whitney Young (60-56 final).
What makes the Mustangs so dangerous, beyond their skill, is their diversity and depth.
Their frontcourt of Xzavier Taylor and Josh Cunningham stands 6-foot-9 and 6-7, respectively.
Irvin employs a three-guard assault with DePaul recruit Billy Garrett Jr., Kyle Davis and Markee Williams all capable of knocking down the three-pointer or penetrating inside.
Five players are averaging at least 10 points per game: Garrett (17.6), Davis (13.8), Cunningham (13.8), 6-6 Lamont Walker (11.8) and Williams (10.3). Freshman Charlie Moore supplies 8.9 points off the pines and 6-3 guard Torry Johnson has emerged during the postseason.
“Xzavier Taylor and Torry Johnson have really stepped up to the plate,” Irvin said. “I’ve been challenging them to step up and they have really taken on that role now. Torry is becoming the guard I envisioned him being.”
Limestone will try to counter with Mathews (15.8 ppg), guard Lorenzo Burns (9.2 ppg) and Terrence Shelby, a 6-3 guard averaging 13.9 points per game.
The Rockets’ tallest player is 6-5, which should have Cunningham and Taylor licking their chops.
“We’ve got to go inside more than we normally do,” Irvin said. “We have to post guys up and put some pressure on them (Limestone) that way.”
The two teams have a pair of common opponents. Limestone beat Brooks 71-46 and Harlan 65-59, while Morgan Park downed Brooks 93-45 and Harlan 67-48.
Irvin didn’t mince words when asked to assess his team.
“Of course we are the best team in the state,” Irvin said. “We beat three of the top 4A teams. We just need to stay focused.”