The Washington girls basketball team achieved the sixth 20-win season in the program’s history Feb. 11.

The Washington girls basketball team achieved the sixth 20-win season in the program’s history Feb. 11.

The Lady Panthers dismantled Bloomington, 61-21, in the quarterfinals of the Class 3A Bloomington Central Catholic Regional.

Hayley Reneau had 13 points to lead fourth-seeded Washington, while Jess Learned chipped in a dozen.

The Lady Panthers were ahead 30-10 at halftime against the fifth-seeded Purple Raiders, then exploded for a 22-5 margin in the third quarter.

Maddie Lee had nine points for Washington, which hounded Bloomington (8-19) ballhandlers.

The Lady Panthers won for the ninth time in their last 10 games.

Morton 47, WCHS 35
The Potters Feb. 12 defeated the Lady Panthers for the third time in as many tries this season.

Washington (20-8) led only briefly, but battled No. 1-seed Morton until the final horn in a matchup that should have been played at the sectional level.

Instead, the Potters advanced to the regional final, looking for their eighth sectional berth in the last nine years.

The Lady Panthers trailed only 20-17 with 1:30 left in the first half until Morton ran off six consecutive points.

“That really hurt us when they got it to nine,” WCHS head coach Randy Marchand said. “Against a team like that, you can’t have those little spurts.”

Learned just missed a double-double with team-high totals of nine points and 10 rebounds.

Reneau had eight points, Makayla Hartter six and Hannah Heinz and Becca Dwyer five apiece.

Washington was down by 17 points in the third quarter, but rallied to within 11 to open the fourth.

“It was a big uphill battle, but we never quit,” said Marchand. “It would have been nice if we could have gotten a few more shots to go down.”

The Lady Panthers held the ball for just over a minute on the game’s first possession, then scored on a Hartter lay-up.

But that approach was abandoned after multiple Washington turnovers and eight points in a row by the Potters.

The Lady Panthers were behind 11-4 until a solid finish to the opening period.

Learned and Lee both made shots, with Lee’s coming after she grabbed an offensive rebound.

Lee assisted on Dwyer’s second field goal of the quarter before Reneau completed a 6-1 run with a hoop with 3:47 to go in the first half.

Learned’s putback at the 2:17 mark countered a Sarah Livingston bucket to make it 20-17.

Four of Morton’s six points during the decisive second-period spree came in the last 23 seconds.

Chandler Ryan was fouled with no time on the clock and she hit both free throws for a 26-17 separation.

The Potters used 10 straight points, five of which came from Kate Byrne, to emerge with a 36-19 third-quarter lead.

Reneau sank two 3-pointers 28 seconds apart to get Washington within 13.

Learned, who pulled down five boards in the quarter, then trimmed the deficit to 11 with a basket at the end of the third.

Morton blanked the Lady Panthers for the first 3:59 of the fourth period and registered seven points to pull away from its Mid-Illini Conference rival.

Washington kept fighting and produced a 7-0 run, with five points from Heinz, to make the score 46-35 at the 1:52 mark.

With just more than a minute remaining and a 12-point difference, Marchand sent in five reserves.

“Both teams played with a lot of heart,” Morton head coach Bob Becker said.

Marchand said the team played a little smarter and cut down on turnovers compared to the 51-21 loss it sustained in the last meeting with the Potters Jan. 26

With no seniors, the Lady Panthers will be in position for a big 2013-14 if they continue to work hard.

“The future looks very good for this team,” said Marchand, adding the squad will have a chance for back-to-back 20-victory seasons for the first time since 2004-05 and ’05-06.

Washington had a lot of seconds this year — at the Pontiac and Manual tournaments and in the M-I standings — that it can try to turn into firsts next winter.

“Those are some things to really look forward to,” Marchand said.