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PEORIA — Morgan Park’s Lamont Walker and Josh Cunningham threw down dunks on consecutive possessions late in the in the fourth quarter Friday to seal the Mustangs’ 52-46 win over Orr in the Class 3A state semifinals at Carver Arena.
It was a rare moment of basketball beauty in an ugly game.
“We like the game ugly,” Morgan Park coach Nick Irvin said. “We try to make it ugly.”
The teams had combined for just 60 points after three quarters, not what was expected from two high-octane offenses. Orr never seemed to be able to get things together, which was similar to the Spartans’ performance last season when they lost both games at the state finals.
“It’s the same as last year, I don’t know if it’s the crowd, but we played our worst basketball of the year,” Orr coach Lou Adams said. “We dug ourselves a hole in the first half and then we fight with each other. It's hard when you fight each other and then fight the other team.”
Cunningham led the Mustangs (23-6) with 15 points and seven rebounds. Sophomore point guard Charlie Moore added 12 points and senior Torry Johnson scored 10.
“I’m proud of the little fella,” Irvin said. “Charlie Moore is in the state championship game. All year he took criticism, people saying he turned the ball over too much.’’
The Mustangs won the game at the free-throw line, shooting 26-for-33. They shot just 28 percent (12-for-42) from the field.
“I was over there trying to be calm, but I was nervous,” Irvin said. “We lost a few games because of free throws.”
Senior Markus Johnson played one of the best games of his career. The 6-7 senior dominated the glass with a game-high 12 rebounds.
“Nick told me to go out and be an animal,” Johnson said.
Marlon Jones led Orr (25-5) with 15 points and Lou Adams Jr. added 12 points and four steals. Tyquone Greer, the hero of Orr’s supersectional victory, played 13 minutes on his injured leg but did not score.
“Our plan was to get to their emotions early,” Cunningham said. “It worked, but they were tough and stayed in it.”
Morgan Park, the defending Class 3A state champs, will play Lincoln in the state championship game on Saturday. The Railsplitters (34-2) beat Rockford Lutheran 45-42 in the first semifinal game. Gavin Block led the way with 16 points. Lincoln shot 32 threes in the game.
“We won’t be overlooking [Lincoln],” Walker said. “We know they like to hold the ball a lot and shoot threes. We’ve played some teams like that this year and I know we will be prepared.”