MORGAN TOWNSHIP | The Class A Morgan Township Sectional final came down to a newcomer and a veteran.
Sophomore Paige Moore and junior Hannah Murphy controlled the paint as the Cherokees defended their sectional title with a 46-37 victory over LaCrosse on Saturday night.
Morgan (14-10) will face Class A No. 2 Oregon-Davis in Saturday's Caston Regional.
Moore, who did not play in the first two sectional games, came off the bench with 4:52 left in the first quarter after Murphy picked up her second foul.
At that point, LaCrosse had jumped out to a 10-0 lead.
The 6-foot-3 center made her presence known by scoring a basket on a putback.
Then, in the second quarter, Moore scored four points and grabbed five rebounds as Morgan chipped away at a 12-point deficit and took an 18-17 lead with 2:48 left.
"We hadn't seen her all year," LaCrosse coach Brian McMahan said of Moore. "She got a lot of putbacks. No one was on her.
"We missed a lot of shots in the second quarter and we didn't win the rebounding battle."
Murphy returned to the floor in the second quarter and scored four points, grabbed two rebounds and had a steal.
The Cherokees took a 23-20 lead into the half.
"It was difficult for me after I picked up my second foul," Murphy said. "I got down on myself on the bench, but I knew what I had to do to help my team."
Murphy refused to stop helping her teammates.
In the third quarter, she tracked down a long rebound with extra effort and took the ball to the basket with authority.
Murphy scored six of the Cherokees' nine points and grabbed three rebounds, allowing Morgan to take a 32-27 lead.
"Hannah Murphy has had a wonderful tourney for us," Morgan coach Kevin Krieger said. "She came back from a foot injury and has given us an extra scoring option."
Morgan's clutch free-throw shooting and sectional experience made the difference in the fourth quarter.
The Cherokees hit 12-of-15 free throws, led by junior star Trina Coleman, who iced 7-of-8. Coleman also made Morgan's only shot attempt in the fourth: a layup.
Coleman finished with 16 points. Murphy added 13 points and seven rebounds. Moore contributed six points and nine rebounds.
LaCrosse (8-13), making its first-ever sectional championship appearance, played like a veteran team. The Tigers started the game on fire and were never out of it.
"We started exactly how I wanted," McMahan said. "We hit nothing but net in the first quarter. We knew Morgan would make a comeback and we tried to withstand it.
"I can't tell you how much the girls enjoyed the season. They are heartbroken now, but they accomplished so much."
Senior Gabbie Sievers led the Tigers with 12 points and four rebounds. She hit 6-of-7 from the free-throw line.