Boys Basketball: Morgan Park salutes Class 3A state champion team
By Tim O’Brien For Sun-Times Media March 27, 2014 8:10PM
Morgan Park team brings the 3A State trophy out to the fans at the prep-rally Thursday at the school. Worsom Robinson/For Sun-Times Media.
Updated: April 29, 2014 6:30AM
A state title is a state title, and by no means is Morgan Park’s Torry Johnson complaining.
But from his sixth man role on last season’s 3A champion to his far more prominent starting role on this season’s state champ, Johnson gave a nod to the second go-around.
This one meant just a little bit more to the 6-foot-4 senior guard.
“I had to have a different mind-set coming into the game, couldn’t just wait and see the game develop,” Johnson said. “I had to produce right away. This year, as a starter and a captain, it means more to win state. This season was much better for me.”
Honoring the program’s third overall state title (Morgan Park also won the Class AA title in the 1975-76 season) and second in a row, the Mustangs celebrated Thursday afternoon with a championship rally.
Much the same way Johnson feels, Morgan Park coach Nick Irvin appreciated the back-to-back title runs, for all their similarities and differences. When all is said and done, though, another championship ring on his hand is never a bad thing.
“It feels different with a different group of guys, but a really good different,” Irvin said with a smile. “I’m proud of the guys because they hung in there through all the adversity. A lot of people doubted us, and they got it together at the right time.”
After a Jan. 22 loss to Simeon, Morgan Park’s record was a solid if unspectacular 13-5. The Mustangs lost just one more game all season, a defeat in the Public League playoffs to Young. Morgan Park won 11 of its final 12 games.
The final win didn’t come easily. Johnson and Co. were trailing by double digits in the second half of Saturday’s Class 4A state championship game against Lincoln. The Mustangs went on a late 26-2 surge en route to a 59-49 victory.
“Nick got on us at halftime that we need to start pressuring them, that we couldn’t sit back and relax, just hope we get the lead back,” Johnson said. “Once we started pressuring, we got some turnovers, hit some shots, and everything started clicking.”
Johnson is one of six seniors on the team, along with leading scorers Josh Cunningham and Lamont Walker, whom the Mustangs will have to replace along with guard Kain Harris, who transferred to St. Rita earlier in the week.
Irvin is ready for the challenge.
“I’m going to miss my seniors and it will be a challenge, but three-peat, that’s on my mind,” Irvin said. “I told the guys before we left from Peoria last week, ‘We’re going to do it again.’ I put that thought in their head.”
With two state titles under his belt already, sophomore guard Charlie Moore is ready to help lead the charge to a third and, maybe, a fourth.
“We know it’s going to be tough,” Moore said. “We’ve got to come hard, play our game, and we can go for another state championship. For me, it’s been a great experience. I’m a sophomore, and I’m happy to have two titles. I’m looking forward to going for two more.”