LOWELL | Morton never quit despite trailing for the entire first half of the opening game of the Lowell Sectional on Tuesday night.
Morton secured the lead for good early in the fourth quarter and went on to post a 39-34 victory over E.C. Central to advance to Friday’s first semifinal against host Lowell.
“It’s going to be a good one,” Morton coach Tom Haluska said. “Lowell is tough. They’re at home. You know our kids are starting to believe in themselves, and that always helps.”
It wasn’t easy for Morton (11-11), which held off several runs by E.C. Central (4-16) in the fourth quarter.
The Governors (11-11) opened the third quarter with a 5-0 run to take their first lead of the game at 17-14. The game was tied two more times and remained so at 23-23 at the end of the third quarter.
E.C. Central took leads of 24-23 and 26-25 early in the fourth quarter only to see Morton take the lead for good on a basket by Rayann Johnston midway through the final period. Tatyana Skinner, who finished with nine points and a team-high 11 rebounds, added a basket for a 30-27 advantage.
After E.C. Central got within 31-30 on a basket by Cheyenne White, Morton went up 36-30 with 1:27 left on a three-point play by Johnston. The big play by Johnston proved to be too much to overcome for the Cardinals.
Morton made just enough free throws down the stretch to wrap up its first sectional game win since beating Lowell 48-42 in 2009.
Timiya Ray led Morton with 14 points, while Johnston added nine points and eight rebounds.
E.C. Central got game-highs of 17 points and 14 rebounds from White, who was the only player to score in double figures.
Highland faces Lake Central in today’s first game, followed by Munster and West Side.