PEORIA—Morgan Park is loaded with Division I bound, superstar players. Seniors Ayo Dosunmu, Cam Burrell and Kenyon Duling are among the best players in the state and sophomore Adam Miller is one of the top players in the country in his class.
But for the second consecutive game in Peoria, it was unheralded guard Marcus Watson that may have been the key to victory. He’s the glue that helps mold all the superstars together into a team and not just a collection of talent.
“When we started the state playoffs I said to let Marcus orchestrate,” Morgan Park coach Nick Irvin said. “He’s been doing a phenomenal job.”
Watson finished with six assists and three steals in Morgan Park’s 68-51 win over Marian Catholic in the Class 3A state semifinals at Carver Arena on Friday.
Last season Watson stepped in, as a freshman, and played 14 key minutes in the title game victory against Fenwick. Dosunmu was injured and missed the game, but Watson contributed six points and four assists in a key 14 minutes of play.
Watson’s six assists were more than the Spartans finished with as a team (5). He also handled the ball like a seasoned veteran, committing just two turnovers.
Marian Catholic’s young backcourt struggled mightily with turnovers.
“[Morgan Park] just keeps pouncing on you,” Marian Catholic coach Mike Taylor said. “You have to be mentally tough enough to be strong with the ball, to want the ball. Those are lessons our young guards are going to take from this.”
Morgan Park senior Cam Burrell was the dominant force in the game. The unsigned senior had 22 points and 10 rebounds and shot 10-for-11 from the field. Tamell Pearson, the Mustang’s 6-9 senior that has missed most of the season with an eye injury, added eight points and five rebounds.
“Tamell is ready to rumble,” Irvin said. “He is all heart and that is what he played with. I’ve been saying all year that with him we would have been the best team in the state. We would have been undefeated with him.”
Dosunmu, an Illinois recruit, scored 13 points and Duling added 14.
“It is all about winning,” Dosunmu said. “If someone has 30 points and they lose no one remembers. It’s about winning, not stats or awards.”
Sophomore Ahron Ulis led Marian Catholic (25-6) with 15 points. Chris White added 14 points and 10 rebounds and Malik Tidwell scored 13.
“We played hard,” Taylor said. “Playing Morgan Park, you have to have five guys on the floor playing real well or you can’t beat them. They have too many mismatches.”
Morgan Park (24-9) will attempt to repeat as Class 3A champs tomorrow. The Mustangs face Springfield Southeast in the title game at 12:45 p.m.
“It’s for the state championship,” Irvin said. “It doesn’t matter if we play Kansas, Duke or North Carolina. You have to leave everything out there and take what you want. I believe in my heart we will bring it.”