When Morgan Park coach Thomas Johnson was asked about his team’s first-half performance against No. 23 Bogan in a Public League semifinal at Chicago State’s Jacoby Dickens Arena, his answer was direct: “The worst half we played in my career,” he said.
That career covers eight seasons, but luckily for Johnson, his team recovered from a 17-point third-quarter deficit by attacking the basket and picking up the intensity on defense for a 67-55 come-from-behind win.
For the third year in a row, the No. 7 Mustangs (20-2) will meet four-time defending city champion Young in the city title game Saturday at 2 p.m.
“Third time is a charm, that’s what I say,” Johnson said.
His team couldn’t say much after the first half, in which they trailed 34-20 mostly due to a 20-7 first quarter lead by the Bengals (20-4). The third quarter didn’t start well for the Mustangs when that deficit went to 37-20 after a three-point play by Brittany Byrd.
Still trailing 46-34 with under 2 minutes left in the third, the Mustangs caught fire behind a 16-0 run for a 50-46 lead with 6:52 left in the fourth quarter. Kierra Graves had eight of her 18 points during the run.
“We just came out bad in the first and the next thing you know we picked it up,” Graves said. “We started blocking out and started taking care of the ball and playing good defense. We weren’t doing nothing right in that first half.”
After the Bengals tied the game at 50-50, the Mustangs ended the game with a 17-5 run. Shami Goodman scored nine of her 18 points and had three of her five steals in the fourth.
Chelsea Stone led the Bengals with 20 points while teammate Brandy Turner had 12 before fouling out with 2:24 left and her team trailing 60-54.
“[Young] is real fast and we have to play fast with them and play good defense,” Graves said. “We’re a small team and we have to do the little things to beat them.”