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State championship or bust.

Lamont Walker has had plenty of time to think about another state title since Morgan Park last played — a loss to Young in the Public League quarterfinals Feb. 16.

Maybe a little too much time to think.

Beginning its Class 3A state title defense, Morgan Park overcame a sluggish, sloppy effort Wednesday to defeat Rich Central 83-55 in a Thornridge Regional semifinal.

“Coming back from last year’s state championship team, we want to get back down there again,” Walker said. “We’ve been off for two weeks, and we’re happy to be back in the gym playing our game.”

Walker finished with 24 points and eight rebounds to lead Morgan Park (17-6). Josh Cunningham (12 points), Jarrin Randle (11) and Alonzo Chatman (9) contributed for the Mustangs.

The Mustangs advance play Hillcrest, a 89-46 winner over Bremen.

Through two-plus quarters Wednesday, Morgan Park’s extended period off seemed to have a somewhat negative effect.

“I knew it’d be a struggle that first game,” Irvin said. “We were sluggish, and late in the game we picked it up a little bit. We’ll be ready to go Friday.”

Marcus Smith hit a free throw and a pull-up jumper and John Daniels drained a shot in quick succession in the third to cut the deficit to 44-29. But that was as close as the Olympians would get.

Walker, a senior swingman, converted a three-point play and then assisted on an alley-oop dunk to Cunningham.

Walker’s jumper on a fast break and Chatman’s score inside extended the Mustangs’ lead to 24 points at 53-29.

Saddled with foul trouble in the first half, Cunningham made the most of his return to the court in the second. The senior forward scored 10 of his 12 points after halftime, including a highlight reel one-handed dunk late in the third.

“[Lamont and I], we knew as seniors we needed to put the game away so we tried to run and [finish it],” Cunningham said. “If I didn’t score, it didn’t matter. I wanted to play defense and rebound because that’s what we struggled with early.”

For Irvin, the performance came as no surprise.

“Lamont and Josh, they’ve been there before,” Irvin said. “They know exactly what to do. They’re going to lead, and we’re going to follow. That’s their role.”

Arthur Sutton (11 points), William Berry (10) and Quentin Jones (8) paced Rich Central (8-17).

South Carolina basketball coach Frank Martin was in attendance.

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