Unselfish Morton handles Proviso East, improves to 21-6

Unselfish Morton handles Proviso East, improves to 21-6

Morton’s Jesus Perez (3) shoots the ball past Proviso East. | Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times

Jesus Perez finished with 18 points and Manny Rodriguez led the way with 23. 

Proviso East’s historic old gym is loaded with reminders of the school’s basketball dominance. On the way in is a nearly life-sized tribute to Doc Rivers. Four state championship banners hang over the court and each of the corners of the gym is devoted to a former star, from Michael Finley to Shannon Brown.

Donnie Boyce, another former Proviso great, is the coach and Sherrell Ford, his old running mate, is an assistant coach.

But all that history doesn’t mean a lot to teenagers. The gym in Maywood is intimidating because of the loud fans that still pack the place and one other factor.

“That band is crazy,” Morton senior Manny Rodriguez said. “We all love that band. It’s so fun having all that energy against us.”

The Mustangs beat Proviso East 76-63 on Friday. Morton’s unselfish, confident team relished the challenge.

“We knew it was going to get hectic in their environment,” Morton’s Jesus Perez said. “We kept our cool and stayed calm and played our game. We didn’t let anything get into our head and the result we got was what we wanted.”

Perez is an excellent ball handler. He can run the team and also create his own shot. The junior point guard finished with 18 points and Rodriguez led the way with 23.

“Kendall [Nichols] is our leading scorer but he had foul trouble and didn’t have much of a game and we still had them down twenty at one point,” Morton coach Tony Martinucci said. “If you have three legit scorers you can beat a lot of teams.”

Martinucci has the scorers, but his team also has chemistry. The ball moves quickly to the open man.

“They like each other,” Martinucci said. “Last year’s group was talented but we didn’t take off because they didn’t really like each other. These guys saw that and over the summer decided they were going to like each other. That is the most important thing.”

Nichols had seven points and Josh Dowdell added 10 points and four rebounds off the bench.

The Mustangs (21-6, 10-2 West Suburban Gold) have an excellent record and finished second at the Proviso West Holiday Tournament. But they haven’t received much attention.

“We know we are the underdogs, whether it is against Proviso East or any city team,” Perez said. “But that is fine, we are ok with it.”

Morton has won nine of its last ten games.

“We won out in February,” Martinucci said. “We thought we could. We are playing our best basketball. We could lose to anybody but we are playing good right now. We’ve developed a bench with eight or nine guys that can play. Orlando [Cervantes] had an awesome game with eight or nine steals.”

Proviso East (16-11, 7-5) was also on a roll heading into the game, winning five of its last six including a big one against conference leader Hinsdale South.

The Pirates only trailed by one at halftime but were undone by a four-minute scoreless streak in the third quarter.

“It was a combination of a really good, strong, guard-oriented team playing to their strengths and our youth and lack of fundamentals,” Boyce said. “It exposed us.”

Terrence Thomas led Proviso East with 17 points and Michael Osborne added 15. Latrell Boyle grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds and scored six.

“I had to learn a lesson with patience this year,” Boyce said. “And they had to learn some lessons. I’m really proud of this team. We only had two guys back that played a lot. But it’s going to be tough in that monster sectional.”

Source : Michael O’Brien Link

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