To say host Morgan Park Academy was shaky in the first half of Thursday’s Class 1A regional final would be an understatement.
The Warriors committed 24 turnovers in the half and were fortunate to trail a scrappy Universal team just 24-22 at the break.
The solution, guard Bhy Williams said, was simple.
“We just had to slow down and focus,” she said.
Dominant defense and rebounding helped, too, as the Warriors turned it around in the second half to capture their sixth regional crown in seven years with a 54-38 victory.
“We knew they were very athletic and quick and could hit open shots if you let them,” Morgan Park Academy coach Tom Drahozal said. “We reiterated at halftime the importance of shutting them down defensively.”
No one exemplified how the game was a tale of two halves more than Williams. The freshman missed her first 11 shots from the field before her three-pointer with seven seconds left in the second quarter cut her team’s deficit to two.
She scored 12 points in the second half to share for team-high honors with 15. She added eight rebounds. Gabby Ogbevire had 15 points and 17 rebounds, and Brittney McKnight 14 points and 19 rebounds for Morgan Park Academy (14-10), which will meet Hinckley-Big Rock or Harvest Christian in Tuesday’s Harvest Christian Sectional semifinal.
Danya Alzein (16 points, six rebounds), Rowanne Murrar (eight points, seven rebounds) and Lana Abedrabbo (six points, eight steals) led Universal (17-5).
The Warriors used a 13-4 outburst over the final five minutes of the third quarter and the first two of the fourth to turn a 29-28 deficit into a 42-32 lead. Ogbevire scored eight points during the run.
Universal, which forced 41 turnovers in all, used its defense to create easy buckets in the first half, but went 6-for-27 from the field after the break and finished 15-of-75.
Morgan Park Academy, which was 24 of-59 from the field, owned a 67-33 rebounding advantage.
“I can’t believe I had (19 rebounds),” McKnight said. “We were frustrated at halftime, but everyone got their head in the game in the second half and our zone was really good in the second half.”