PEORIA – Slow starts in the first and third quarters put the Dixon Dukes behind, and forced them to play catch-up for most of their Class 3A Peoria Sectional semifinal game Wednesday night.
And while the Dukes recovered both times, the Morton Potters found a way to answer and capture a 41-33 victory over the Dukes at Bradley University’s Renaissance Coliseum.
“We tried not to let that bother us,” said junior Laron Carr, about his team’s first experience playing in a college arena. “We knew it would be like this, a big crowd that was also loud. We didn’t let is distract us.”
Each team started off the night slow, as it took more than 3 minutes for either one to score. Sophomore Isaiah Roby started things off right for the Dukes, as he hit a 3-pointer from the wing to finally break the scoring drought.
But Morton (17-14) responded with a 12-2 run to take control away from the Dukes.
“Against a team like that, they run exactly what their coach wants, right to a T,” Dixon junior Cal Jarrett said. “They’re very disciplined, and are going to come out and do what they’re supposed to do.
“They’re not going to let you get in the way of their system,” Jarrett added.
A defensive dogfight ensued, but Jarrett scored his first five points of the game in the second quarter to help his team’s cause. A 9-3 run to end the first half cut into the Potters’ lead, and Dixon (23-7) trailed just 17-14 at halftime.
“I just tried to be a good leader out there,” Jarrett said. “I didn’t shoot the ball well all night, but we needed a spark, and I tried to get the ball to the basket and get inside a little bit.”
Carr provided a spark right out of the locker room, knocking down a shot from behind the arc to knot the game up at 17. The ensuing Potter possession came up empty, adding to the Dukes’ momentum when Roby notched one his game-high six blocked shots by rejecting an attempt from Morton centerpiece Ian Saathoff.
But the Dukes’ upswing turned south in the blink of an eye, as the Potters rattled off another 12-2 run through the meat of the third quarter. Saathoff was the heart of the run, scoring eight of his game-high 19 points in the stretch. He finished off a double-double with 13 rebounds.
The Dukes salvaged a pair of baskets to stop the bleeding before the quarter ended, giving themselves a more manageable 31-23 deficit while staring at the final 8 minutes of their season.
“After I hit the 3, I thought we came down and played good defense and could get on a run,” Carr said. “They came back down, and we couldn’t get a stop, and that really cost us.”
Dixon clawed back, cutting the deficit to six points on two separate occasions, but couldn’t get over the hump the rest of the way
Even with solid defense, stagnant offense turned out to be the bigger difference for the Dukes. Dixon scored in double figures in only one quarter – 10 points in the fourth – and shot 38.7 percent (12-for-31) from the floor.
“Our game plan was what it always is,” Dixon coach Jason Mead said. “Push the ball when we get it, run our stuff, and then play solid defense. We did a good job on one of them. I thought we did a good job on defense for the most part; we forced them into tough looks. They made some, and missed a lot of them.
“It was a great experience, but again, it’s frustrating because you never know how many chances you are going to get to play in a game like this. You wish that you come out and put your best foot forward, and I don’t think we did tonight. A lot of that has to do with Morton – they did what they should do defensively. They pressured us; holding us to 33 points is hard, and they did it.”
Class 3A Peoria Sectional semifinal
Morton 41, Dixon 33
Star of the game: Ian Saathoff, Morton, 19 points, 13 rebounds.
Key performers: Cal Jarrett, Dixon, 11 points; Isaiah Roby, Dixon, 9 points, 9 rebounds, 6 blocks; Laron Carr, Dixon, 6 points, 5 rebounds; Cory Dullard, Morton, 6 points, 5 steals