Men's basketball makes one last great run, but falls short in Region IV semifinals
March 4, 2014
When Morton College dictated the tempo, good things usually happened for the Panthers.
Morton College was at its best when the Panthers worked the ball inside and attacked the basket, then looking to the outside for the open three-pointer.
The Panthers didn’t do that at the onset of their 86-80 season-ending loss to Triton March 2 at the Region IV men’s basketball semifinals in Oglesby. Morton College, which finished 18-14 overall, trailed 36-29 at intermission. The deficit grew to 12 with six minutes to go.
Morton College resorted to a half-court trap and took a 1-point lead with two minutes left.
“We went to a half-court trap,” Morton College men’s basketball coach Conte Stamas said. “We had a big run to take the lead. We wanted to keep what we were doing, but we got very conservative and lost our attack mode. Once we got the lead, we backed off and Triton got some easy baskets.”
Triton (23-8) moves on to face South Suburban in the Region IV title game Saturday, March 8, in Elgin.
“We came out against Triton and we weren’t attacking inside first, like we did against Illinois Valley,” Stamas said. “We came out and scored 51 points in the second half. Triton scored 50, though. It felt like we were trading baskets.”
While Morton College didn’t return to the Region IV title game for the second straight year, the Panthers rode the backs of seven players to end up with back-to-back Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference championships.
Nick Dixon, the Skyway’s MVP, capped a fantastic freshman season. His 25 points gave him 805 on the season, making him just the third player in Morton College history to score 800 or more points in a single season. Arran Skinner, a 6-5 freshman, came up with two solid games in the playoffs, adding 15 points against Triton.
Two-year standouts Jimmy Stamas (13), Tino Vazquez (12) and Kylan Anderson (10) gave the Panthers five players in double figures, while Alonso Singletary and Chris Jenke also contributed.
“Obviously, it’s disappointing that we’re not advancing,” Stamas said. “We had just seven players the second half of the year and it was part of the reason we struggled at times – we got worn down.”
Women's basketball gives Moraine Valley run for its money in playoff defeat
February 28, 2014
The Morton College women’s basketball team overcame a season-long wave of injuries to make a strong run at the end.
While the sixth-seeded Panthers ended a nine-game losing streak with a win over Elgin in the regular-season finale, No. 3 seed Moraine Valley ended Morton College’s season with a 74-67 loss in the Region IV quarterfinals February 27 in Palos Hills.
Although it was Moraine Valley’s third victory over Morton College this season, this by far was the Panthers’ best showing. Morton College trailed 30-29 at halftime, but committed three turnovers in the opening minutes of the second half that allowed Moraine Valley to go up eight points.
“We fought hard and were right there,” Morton College coach Larry Lanciotti said. “We had so many injuries. I was playing people in spots they didn’t know.”
Christine Yazzie, a second-team, all-Region IV selection, capped her career at Morton College with 17 points, 10 assists and 9 rebounds. Samantha Bruce added 16 points and 9 rebounds, while Maricella Ruiz had 16 points, 6 rebounds and 3 steals. Brooke Bell and Franchessa Gill finished with 7 points apiece.
“It was a frustrating year because of the injuries,” Lanciotti said. “We were in every game this year. It was nice to beat Elgin to end the regular season, but I would have liked to beat Moraine Valley, too.”
Revived men's basketball mixes it up to top Illinois Valley in Region IV playoffs
February 28, 2014
A refreshed and refocused Morton College kicked off the Region IV men’s basketball playoffs with an 84-69 quarterfinal victory over Illinois Valley February 27 at the Henry J. Vais Gymnasium in Cicero.
It was a nice way for the Panthers (18-13) to rebound from a disappointing finish to the Illinois Skyway season, one where Morton College had two opportunities in the final week to claim the conference championship outright, only to settle for a three-way tie with Prairie State and Oakton.
“We worked the ball around and attacked the basket more,” Morton College coach Conte Stamas said. “We approached this like it was the start of a new season. At two of our three last practices, we were real sharp.”
Morton College now faces Triton (23-8) in the Region IV District B semifinals at 6 p.m. Sunday, March 2, at Illinois Valley.
Morton College had assists on its first eight baskets with Arran Skinner (17 points) being the early beneficiary. The 6-5 freshman scored three inside baskets to stake top-seeded Morton College to an early 8-2 lead.
The Panthers’ inside presence opened things up around the perimeter as well. Kylan Anderson, who finished with a game-high 20 points, knocked down a three-pointer that gave Morton College the lead for good at 19-16.
“Arran did a nice job of finishing around the basket,” Morton College coach Conte Stamas said. “Kylan Anderson shot the ball well. He took the right kind of shot and wasn’t rushing it. He played good defense on the top of our zone defense.”
Alonso Singletary provided the Panthers with a big boost right before halftime with an offensive rebound basket in the closing seconds that gave Morton College a 40-31 lead at the break. Singletary finished with 8 points and 7 assists.
The Panthers used an inside-outside mix to put Illinois Valley (11-19) away in the second half. After the Eagles closed to 47-41, Morton College responded with a 17-3 run to open up a 20-point advantage just past the midway point.
Skinner started the run with a pair of free throws, then added an inside basket. Singletary and Anderson scored from close in, then Jimmy Stamas (14 points, 5 assists), Nick Dixon (14 points) and Anderson all connected on three-pointers.
All seven Panthers contributed. Tino Vazquez scored seven points and Chris Jenke added four and took an offensive charge.
Men's basketball ends up sharing Illinois Skyway title with Prairie State
February 24, 2014
Morton College came away with its fourth conference men’s basketball title in the last five years, but the Panthers left Elgin with a hollow feeling.
The Panthers still did enough to earn the top seed in the Region IV playoffs, but missed out on an opportunity to be Illinois Skyway champions outright after host Elgin knocked down 13 3-pointers to hand Morton College a 72-66 loss February 22 at Elgin’s Spartan Events Center. Morton College (17-13) settled for a tie at 9-5 with Prairie State, which won its last four conference games.
After the Panthers closed with eight games in 22 days, including two weeks of three games apiece, Morton College coach Conte Stamas is glad to get a few days off prior to the Panthers’ Region IV playoff opener at 7 p.m. Thursday, February 27, against either Illinois Valley or Wright.
“When we walk into the gym for practice on Monday (February 24), every community college in the country is 0-0,” Stamas said. “We’ll be glad to get a few days off between games.”
Every time Morton College appeared ready to grab the momentum, Elgin would respond with a 3-pointer. Four different Spartans connected on a 3-pointer with Jonathan Leigeber leading the way with 20 points on six trifectas.
The bulk of Morton College’s scoring came from three players. Nick Dixon (29), Tino Vazquez (15) and Jimmy Stamas (14) combined for all but eight of Morton College’s 66 points.
Women's basketball rings `victory' Bell in come-from-behind win over Elgin
February 24, 2014
The last time Brooke Bell went to the free-throw line with the outcome in the balance, it was senior year in high school and she needed to make just 1 of 2 attempts. She made the first and her team walked off a one-point winner.
Bell again proved to be the player you wanted at the free-throw line in a clutch situation during Morton College’s 66-65 Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference win over Elgin February 22 at Elgin’s Spartan Events Center. She was fouled after coming up with the rebound off a missed free throw with 2.5 seconds remaining and the Panthers down one. This time, the stakes were a little higher because Bell needed to make both attempts.
The sophomore capped a career-best effort of 18 points by making both free throws as Morton College (13-15, 4-8 in the Skyway) ended a nine-game losing streak against Elgin, which last lost to the Panthers in February of 2009.
“It feels really good because all our hard work paid off,” Bell said. “We were all together today. We’ve had some injuries, but we used the people we had. We trusted the system and each other.”
Morton College had been hanging around the Skyway’s upper echelon teams until the opponents managed to pull away in the closing moments. That wasn’t the case against Elgin as the Panthers went on a 12-2 run to rally from 10 down with a little over 4 minutes left in pulling to a 64-all tie on Samantha Bruce’s driving layup with 22.8 seconds remaining.
The Panthers were called for a foul with 3.3 seconds left. Elgin made the first attempt to go ahead 65-64, but missed the second. Bell came up with the loose ball and was fouled.
“Brooke had a career game,” Morton College women’s basketball coach Larry Lanciotti said. “We’ve struggled with so many injuries this season. We hung around and found a way to win. This will give some nice momentum heading into the playoffs.”
Bell was Morton College’s leading scorer. Isis Mance added 17 and Christine Yazzie, 12. Bruce was a big contributor in the second half, scoring 8 of her points in the last 20 minutes.
Morton College heads to Moraine Valley to start the Region IV playoffs at 6 p.m. Thursday, February 27, in Palos Hills. It will be the third meeting of the season between the two schools with the Cyclones winning both matchups.