Panthers outlast Morton

Bryan Veginski
Road warriors: Washington sophomore Mark Roth handles the ball in the second half Feb. 24 at Morton. The Panthers won for the sixth straight time on the road in Mid-Illini Conference play. Washington’s overall winning streak reached 13 with the 57-47 decision.

Washington had to grind out a boys basketball win Feb. 24 at Morton.

The Panthers emerged with a 57-47 Mid-Illini Conference victory that may prepare them well for the postseason.

Washington’s Dyricus Simms-Edwards led all scorers with 23 points, including 15 in the fourth quarter.

The Panthers won despite having two starters saddled with foul problems that further depleted a team missing two other injured mainstays.

“This game made us a lot better,” WCHS head coach Kevin Brown said of winning at the Potterdome.

Washington (21-3, 12-1) played two post players for extended stretches with Colton Underwood leading the way with 13 points and a game-high five rebounds.

Senior Jake Weston is back to 100 percent, but his leadership has been a constant even when he was not playing.

“He’s been able to be a leader without stepping on the floor,” said Brown.

Weston delivered a big third-quarter bucket that countered a Morton three-pointer.

“He gave us a great spark,” Simms-Edwards said of Weston. “It’s good to have him back.”

The first quarter ended in an 11-11 tie with both teams making two treys and one free throw.

The Potters tallied the first four points of the second period before the Panthers ran off six straight.

In the final two minutes of the opening half, field goals by Simms-Edwards and Sharp gave the visitors a 21-19 lead.

Morton went on top in the third, 27-25, until a 7-0 Washington run.

Underwood completed an old-fashioned three-point play before two consecutive hoops from Corey Sharp.

Another Underwood score, on a nice assist from Simms-Edwards, made it 36-32 Panthers with eight minutes left.

Simms-Edwards literally was perfect in the fourth quarter, going 3-of-3 from the floor and 8-of-8 at the free-throw line.

Back-to-back threes by Simms-Edwards and Mark Roth widened the advantage to 46-35 with 4:14 remaining.

Washington called a timeout after the second long-distance shot and Brown told the boys they needed to make two more stops.

The first came right away, and the Panthers upped the margin to 13 on an Underwood deuce.

The second stop took a little longer.

The Potters came to life with an 10-2 run to draw within 50-45 with 1:35 to go.

Simms-Edwards sank two foul shots, and when Washington secured possession after Morton misfired, the victory was imminent. 

Sharp and Roth had six points apiece for a Panther team that shot .538 (21-of-39) from the field.

Brown said the quickness of Morton froward Tyler Lundeen hurt Washington, but he said Sharp did a great job when he defended the sophomore.

Lundeen paced the Potters with 14 points, including 7-of-7 free throws.

Faced with serious foul issues in a closely-officiated contest, Brown said the Panthers had to take themselves out of rhythm.

Twice, they held the ball out front to freeze the action and help preserve players for later in the game.

With the conference title already wrapped up, Brown said the rivalry game was solely for pride.

Washington showed its fortitude by winning its sixth league game in a row away from the Panther Den.

“It’s always fun to learn from games like this,” said Simms-Edwards, who recognized the hectic crowd. “To come out and play in this kind of environment helped us out a lot.”

The Panthers swept Morton in league play for the fifth season in succession.

Washington, the No. 3 ranked team in the Associated Press Class 3A state poll, won for the 13th consecutive time.

Game canceled: Washington’s home game Friday against East Peoria was canceled.

A blown transformer at Washington caused a power outage and no rescheduled date was made.

Senior Night festivities were reset for last night.