Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Morton Scores 1,000th Point, Leads Lebanon Past Hanover
"It was unreal, an amazing feeling" said Morton with a smile. "I remember the last girl from Leb to score 1,000 points was Meghan Daigle. I couldn't make it to her game though, so even though I have thought about this since I was in 5th grade I still didn't know what to expect. Having my friends and family, plus the boys team here was awesome."
It was truly a special night at Lebanon High. The crowd was jam-packed - seemingly the entire town of Lebanon plus most of Hanover was there. There was an electric atmosphere in the gym, with the anticipation in the air that they were all about to witness something memorable.
Morton continued her outstanding basketball career, and exceptional senior season on Wednesday night. She scored 28 points, had 12 rebounds, 6 steals and 6 assists. She also did it against Lebanon's biggest rival in Hanover. It was a close game for most of the 1st half, but then the Raiders went on a run to cruised to a 64-38 win. The Lebanon girls are now 15-0, and have won every game by 20 points or more. This team has a chance to go undefeated on the season and win every game by 20 points or more. That would be an incredible accomplishment.
"Moriah is probably the best player I've ever coached" said Lebanon head coach Tim Kehoe, who has coached the team for over 20 years. "Scoring 1,000 points is hard enough to do, but she has done it while playing with many other good players. Also, she does so much more for us in addition to score. She's always looking to set up her teammates, and has led our team in assists the last three years. She's a good kid and easy to root for."
There were posters recognizing Morton hung up all around the gym. The Lebanon student section was packed, with many of them dressed up in costumes, wearing face paint or holding up signs. There was even one sign which was a blown up picture of Morton's smiling face. It was a special night for Morton, and it couldn't happen to a better kid.
"Sports are a big deal at Lebanon, the support we get is amazing" said Morton, who will be attending Dartmouth College in the fall. "Not many girls get to play in this kind of atmosphere in high school. Lebanon fans are the best, we had a huge student section. And doing it against Hanover made it even better!"
In addition to Morton, Lebanon also got a big game from fellow senior Emily Kehoe. Kehoe had 17 points and 3 steals. She was hitting outside shots, scoring on drives to the rim and finishing layups in transition.
Hanover was hanging with Lebanon early on in this game, even leading 8-5 halfway through the 1st quarter. They were being led by the strong play of their young but talented back court of freshman Lexie Hamilton and sophomore JJ Daniell. Daniell made a nice steal, then scored inside on a drive. Hamilton then drilled a 3-pointer against the zone to put the Marauders up 6-1 early. A layup by Holly Schlosser off a nice feed by Daniell made it 8-5 Hanover.
"We weren't the agressor early on" said Coach Kehoe. "It was a rivalry game, and there was a lot of emotional energy. We just had to settle down."
Lebanon did just that, going on a 7-0 run to end the 1st quarter. Junior guard Samantha MacDonald hit an outside shot, then sophomore forward Vanessa Fleury dove on the floor for a loose ball. Morton came up with it, made a smooth euro-step move and hit a floater in the lane. She utilized that move to perfection many times in this game. Morton got to the rim at will and every time she either scored or got fouled.
"I remember two years ago when Kyle Farr from the boys team taught me that move" Morton explained with a smile and with Kehoe standing beside her giggling. "He told me if I could get it down that it would be unstoppable. I've worked on it a lot since then."
Morton scored her 1,000th point on a similar drive early in the 2nd quarter, and from there the Raiders really started to build momentum. Kehoe and junior forward Heather King made quick layups, then Morton drilled a 3-pointer from the right wing. Morton then did the euro-step move again, finishing in traffic ro make it 25-11 Lebanon with 3:30 left in the 2nd quarter.
Then Kehoe made a great hustle play to come up with a steal, and Morton made the extra pass over to King for another easy score. After yet another turnover by Hanover, Kehoe made another layup on the other end. It was now 29-12 Lebanon, and the Raiders were on a 17-2 run. They went into halftime leading 31-17.
"We have stretches of really good play" said hanover head coach Dan O'Rourke. "But then for critical gaps they get 6 points in 30 seconds. Those little runs hurt us all night. The good news is we're young, and I'm proud of how hard the kids played."
Lebanon continued to roll in the 2nd half. Morton drove hard to the basket, and made a great kick out pass over to MacDonald (the team's unsung hero) for an 18-footer. Kehoe then hit a 15-footer off the dribble to put the Raiders up 37-23 with 3:06 left in the 3rd quarter. Then on back-to-back plays Morton split the defense and got to the rim. On the first one she finished the layup, and on the second one she made a nice jab step and got to the free throw line.
Fleury made a stong put-back, and Kehoe got another layup off a steal. Hanover was battling hard to stay in it, but Lebanon led 44-25 headed to the 4th quarter.
The Raiders kept playing hard and pouring it on in the 4th. Morton jumped the passing lane, made a great steal and laid it in on the other end. King then hit a three from the top of the key to make it 49-25 with 6:39 left. Morton then made a good pass to Kehoe for a layup in traffic, then Morton drilled another 3-pointer. That made it 54-27 Lebanon with 5:36 left. The pace of the game got faster as the game went on, and when that happened the points came fast and furiously for the Raiders.
Hanover kept battling though, as Daniell hit a tough leaner inside. Then Hamilton then drove and made a good dump down pass to a teammate for a layup. Then Hamilton hit another 3-pointer. Soon after that though, Lebanon took their starters out and cruised to the 64-38 win. When Morton was taken out of the game she received a standing ovation and a hug from Coach Kehoe and all of her teammates.
"The most amazing part about Moriah is that she also had about 500 assists, so many steals and is always looking to pass" said Emily Kehoe with a smile. "We've been playing together since 4th grade, and I will remember her for a long time."
Even with the loss, Hanover is still a respectable 8-5 on the season. After Lebanon it it wide open in D-II girls, and Hanover actually played Lebanon tougher in this game than just about anybody has all year.
"She's a gamer" said Coach O'Rourke about Morton. "As she goes, Lebanon goes. It's no secret she is the key to their team. She had 28 points, the night belonged to her. She is a model player, and that's why I told my players to shake her hand to congratulate her when she scored her 1,000th point."
This night definitely ranks up their with the best moments in Morton's high school career.
"This was amazing, and a championship would be amazing" said Morton. "But I still remember my freshman year that quadruple-overtime game in the semi-finals when we beat St. Thomas. I'll always remember that game too!"
Morton mentioned how now she wants to win a championship. Lebanon has come very close each of the last three years, but lost in the title game in 2010 and 2011, and in the semi-finals in 2012. Will they finally get it done this year, with both Morton and Kehoe as seniors? Stay tuned.