Girls Basketball: Balanced Morgan Park too much for Wheaton North
Updated: January 14, 2012 5:12PM
Losing a Division I player to injury early in the season would be a devastating blow for many basketball teams.
Morgan Park isn’t one of them. Despite playing without 6-1 senior Gabrielle Richmond, a St. Bonaventure recruit who suffered a torn ACL against Trinity in November, the Mustangs have won eight straight games after beating Wheaton North 57-38 Saturday at the McDonald’s Shootout at Willowbrook.
Toledo recruit Kendyll Nunn is one reason Morgan Park (13-6) is succeeding, but freshmen Marsha Howard and Tammy Russell are showing the future is bright.
The 6-0 Howard had nine points and 11 rebounds and the 5-9 Russell added eight points and 13 rebounds as Morgan Park dominated the boards in the second half.
“That’s the difference,” Morgan Park coach T.J. Johnson said. “[It was] unusual that neither one of them was in foul trouble today, so we were able to play the two of them together. That is our game plan, but they are both 14 years old and you can’t trust them. But they came up big today.”
Neither Howard or Russell had a foul in the first half, which ended with the Mustangs getting transition baskets from Nunn and guard Bh’Rea Griffin to take a 22-18 lead.
“We usually start the game off kind of slow, but today we picked it up with our intensity and our speed,” Howard said. “Then we went into the locker room and we just communicated with each other. We told each other the boards [are what] we need to get. So we dominated the boards.”
Did they ever. Wheaton North (9-10) outrebounded Morgan Park 17-10 in the first half, but the Mustangs mustered a 23-14 edge in the second half, including 14-4 on the offensive end, where Howard and Russell dominated.
Russell grabbed seven offensive boards, while Howard had six, all after halftime. After not attempting a shot in the first half, Howard made her first three attempts in the third quarter as Morgan Park outscored the Falcons 17-9 to take a 39-27 lead.
“I usually just rebound for my team, tough it out and if I get some open looks, I’ll take them,” Howard said. “Other than that, I’m not really an offensive player.”
Griffin led the Mustangs with 17 points and four steals, while Nunn added 10 points, four rebounds and three steals. Chrissy Baird had 13 points and 11 rebounds to pace Wheaton North, which lost starting guard Reilly Stewart, who was taken to the hospital after suffering a concussion in the third quarter.
With only two healthy seniors, Morgan Park is young but filled with potential, as epitomized by Howard and Russell.
“As freshmen we know we have to come out hard and play hard if we want playing time and we’re playing for [Richmond] because we want to show her that she’s the one who got us to this point,” Howard said. “So we’re playing hard for her. We just want to keep it up because this program will eventually be on the way up.”