HEBRON — Morgan Township wasn't projected to repeat to take home the Gold Ball trophy.
With 90 percent of its scoring gone or injured from last season's Porter County Conference tournament title team, first-year Morgan Township coach Scott Adams was met with ideas of a possible rebuild.
So much for that.
The Cherokees not only reached Monday's championship game, they tied LaCrosse at 31-31 after three quarters. In the fourth, Times No. 9 Morgan Twp. erupted for 25 points on its way to a 56-34 win over LaCrosse and its second straight PCC championship.
"We struggled to find any offensive rhythm, we were real stagnant," Adams said. "Luckily, our defense kept us in the game and we made some 3s and were able to hang around. Give LaCrosse credit because they threw some zones at us and kept changing defenses. In the fourth, we found our groove and were able to pull away.
"This was definitely a team win. Kelsi (Lemmons) doesn't get a lot of credit but she was face-guarding (Justene) Charlesworth and she knocked down some big 3s while keeping Charlesworth from running away with it. Emmy Wells stepped up and hit a couple 3s until Sahara and Talia (Bee) got it going and Emma (O'Brien) hit some big shots for us, too."
It was a struggle out of the gate with a 6-6 tie after one. LaCrosse led 13-11 before the Cherokees (15-5) went on a 7-0 run for the 18-15 advantage at the break.
"I thought Mya (Morrow) and Maddie (Heavilin) did a good job finding people when Justene was out with fouls," LaCrosse coach Brian McMahan said. "We did a good job of getting it to the post with Claire (Garwood) and Katie (Bell), but we just didn't shoot the ball extremely well and that came back and bit us."
Charlesworth was sidelined with two fouls at the 6:02 mark of the second quarter.
"Justene's a great player, everyone knows that," Lemmons said. "We just had to make sure we were always playing hard defense on her. We had make sure people are helping when she drives. We didn't want her to beat us by herself."
Morgan Twp. (15-5) pushed the lead to eight to start the third as freshman Emma O'Brien scored eight of her 11 in the quarter.
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"We knew she was a heck of a player coming into the program and she has really adapted her game to high school," Adams said of O'Brien. "Being a first-year coach, having her for three more years after this is really exciting."
O'Brien also added five rebounds and four assists.
"We played really hard defense and then our offense finally started to click," O'Brien said. "We spread it out, knocked down our shots and Sahara was good on the inside. I was feeling good (Monday) and there were some definitely nerves, but I was able to feed off of the energy of the crowd."
Allison McCormick's basket brought LaCrosse within five midway through the fourth. It was the last shot the Tigers made as Morgan went on a 17-0 run.
"I don't even know what they shot in the fourth, it seemed like they didn't miss a shot," McMahan said. "The girls never quit and played hard, we just couldn't put it in the hole and they were able to. We knew for us to win, the game had to be in the 30s, low 40s. We couldn't let them get out and run and do what they wanted to do and I thought for three quarters we were able to do that."
Talia Bee led all scorers with 18 points and averaged 21.6 over the title run. Sister Sahara added 11 points and 12 rebounds.
"Talia had a breakout tourney," Adams said. "We knew she was a potent scorer and everyone's seeing that now because when she gets going, she can fill it up quickly. With Sahara's athleticism combined with her aggression, that allows her to come up with a ton of rebounds."
It is Morgan's fourth overall title.
"I had a good feeling about the girls coming out," Adams said. "I didn't realize our sophomore class was so potent and Talia has been a pleasant surprise. We're mostly freshmen and sophomore, so the future is still really bright."
Charlesworth was named the James W. Dold Mental Attitude Award winner after the game. She led the Tigers (13-7) with 13 points.
"She's been a class act from the start and she's really carried this program," McMahan said. "You look from here freshman year to now and we've won 53 games and I don't think we won 53 in the 15 years prior. To have other coaches see what kind of player and kid she is is special. She's done a lot of things in her church, around our school and she's a good kid to have. She's a good role model for our younger kids and they really look up to her and the other seniors. It's a good feeling to see her win that."