When Conant’s D’Angelo McBride scored the first four points of the second quarter Friday night, the Cougars led 16-12.
Host Morton’s defense took over from there, posting a shutout for the next nine minutes and allowing just eight points the rest of the way on its way to a 36-24 win in a Class 4A regional final.
“The way they play, they slow the game down a lot,” Morton’s Weisner Perez said. “We usually score in the seventies and eighties so this was a different game for us. We showed that we can play both styles, though., which is huge for us.”
Perez scored 13 points and pulled in 12 rebounds to lead fourth-seeded Morton (21-5), which won its first regional title since 2009.
Jarvis Cannon added 12 points for the Mustangs, who will meet No. 1 seed York in Tuesday’s Bartlett Sectional semifinals.
McBride paced Conant (22-6) with 10 points and nine rebounds.
Morton shut out Conant over the final six minutes of the first half and three minutes of the second half, going on a 14-0 run to take a 26-16 lead.
Perez scored 11 of those points and made sure Conant’s offense would be one-and-done by dominating the glass.
Conant got within 26-22 after three, but scored just two points in the fourth.
“We figured if they were going to slow it down when we were up in the third and fourth quarter, we’d use that to our advantage,” Perez said. “We played tough defense and we knocked down free throws.”
All 10 of Morton’s fourth-quarter points came at the charity stripe, with Cannon and Greg Carter (7 points) each knocking down four free throws and Keandre Townes hitting a pair.
When the final whistle sounded, Morton’s large, energetic student section stormed the floor to celebrate with the Mustangs.
“It’s really special to win this here on our court,” Cannon said. “All these people came out to support us. They’ve been here all year for us.”
Ryan Blaha contributed six points and five rebounds for Conant.
“Conant’s halfcourt defense was really tough,” Morton coach Tony Martinucci said. “They made it tough on us and their kids never get rattled. The balls just bounced our way and we got the rebounds.”