NORMAL, Ill. (AP) - Morton won its first girls state 3A championship last year led by powerhouse guard Chandler Ryan. In December, during the early weeks of another astonishing season for the Potters, she suffered a season-ending ACL tear in her knee.
On Saturday, Morton (33-3) beat North Lawndale 58-41 to defend its title. Ryan was on the bench, watching, when coach Bob Becker leaned over and told her to take off her warm-up outfit.
So, fittingly, with less than 30 seconds left in the game and limping badly, a sobbing Chandler Ryan entered a high school basketball game for the final time. The crowd roared its approval. Becker immediately called a time out and took her out of the game, but the point was made.
Ryan, who was averaging nearly 20 points per game when she was injured, was the team’s leader, and always had been.
“It was a collective decision to put Chandler in,” Becker said. “She’s a great kid, and great leader. She deserved that.”
Teammate Brandi Bisping led the Potters with 19 points and 8 rebounds. Bisping, a junior, assumed Ryan’s leadership role and averaged 14.6 points per game. Tenley Dowell added 11 points for the Potters.
“These kids are just special,” Becker said. “They are winners. They always have been, and they always will be. I feel so blessed to have been a part of this whole thing.”
Kia Brooks and DeAsa Almon each scored 13 points for North Lawndale (23-12). Brooks also grabbed a game-high 9 rebounds.
Morton never trailed in the game, jumping out to a 12-1 lead midway through the first half. Morton went 14-33 from the field (42.4 percent) and 27-33 from the free-throw line. North Lawndale shot 15-46 (32.6 percent) and 7-10 from the line.
It was sweet revenge for the Potters, who fell to Lawndale 48-46 in four overtimes during the State Farm Holiday Classic on Dec. 29. Bisping led all scorers with 23 points.
“I don’t think Morton necessarily did anything special today,” said Phoenix coach Corey Morgan. “There was just a lid on the basket for us from the very beginning. That said, they’ve been here before and you could tell by how poised they seemed.”
In Friday’s semifinals, Morton beat Morgan Park 54-39 and North Lawndale defeated Highland 59-57 in double overtime.