Potters stun Washington, 46-44

Bryan Veginski
‘The lay-up is good’: Dyricus Simms-Edwards, a Washington senior, scores in the second quarter Friday of the Panthers’ 46-44 boys basketball loss to Morton. The setback in the Class 3A regional final ended Washington’s string of four straight sectional appearances.

Washington did not look past the Pontiac boys basketball team March 3 in beginning postseason play.

For the sixth consecutive year, the Panthers won a regional semifinal game as they belted the Indians, 67-46.

Washington, the No. 1 seed in its own Class 3A regional, doubled up fifth-seeded Pontiac in the first half, 42-21.

Ben Worner had a game-high 18 points for the Panthers, while Dyricus Simms-Edwards added 17.

Colton Underwood and Brian Tigue also were in double figures with 14 and 10 points, respectively.

Washington pushed its advantage to 58-31 after three quarters.

With a trio of three-pointers, Matt Hunter led Pontiac with 12 points.

The Indians one night earlier upset No. 4 seed East Peoria by double figures.

MHS 46, Washington 44: The second-seeded Potters made all the plays when they needed them Friday in the regional final.

With the loss at Torry Gymnasium, Washington (22-4) did not reach the sectional level for the first time since 2003-04.

The game was close throughout, with neither team holding an advantage greater than six points.

Tyler Lundeen’s bucket with 1.2 seconds left was the game-winner at a venue with a thunderous noise level.

Carrying a 14-game winning streak and No. 3 ranking in the final Associated Press Class 3A state poll, the Panthers appeared ready to embark on another extended postseason run.

Instead, a distinguished group of seniors — Simms-Edwards, Worner, Tigue, Corey Sharp and Jacob Weston — will depart after playing their final high school games.

“This wasn’t the way it was supposed to end, but we fought every minute. “I’m so proud of our kids,” WCHS head coach Kevin Brown said.

Simms-Edwards had 15 points to pace Washington.

Colton Underwood supplied a dozen points, on 12-of-12 free-throw shooting, and a game-high 13 rebounds.

“He did everything we asked him to do,” said Brown of Underwood.

The junior post player hurt Morton all season with an average of 13.7 points per game in three contests.

The game began slowly with a 9-7 Potter lead after a first quarter that featured a combined nine turnovers.

Washington used a 15-5 spurt in the second period to seize a six-point margin.

Worner hit two threes and Simms-Edwards capped the spree with an impressive offensive rebound and putback.

Six consecutive Morton points to end the first half created a 22-22 tie at the midway point.

A 7-0 Panther run in the third quarter, which included a Sharp trey, gave the hosts a 29-24 edge.

The Potters came back with eight of the next 10 points before the teams traded baskets to close out the frame.

Lundeen’s buzzer beater put Morton back in front, 36-35.

Washington had a short-lived lead in the fourth on a Simms-Edwards deuce before Will Headean hit two straight shots to complete a game-high 20-point night.

Panther Mark Roth brought the crowd to a feverish pitch with a three at 2:34 that evened the game at 42.

Underwood forged the contest’s sixth deadlock with two free throws at the 1:35 mark.

The Potters got a defensive stop to set up the go-ahead play, which involved Tate Anderson going the length of the floor and finding Lundeen on the right side.

Anderson, who only played sparingly, was just inserted during a timeout with 6.6 seconds remaining.

After Morton (16-11) deflected a long baseball pass, Washington had one final try with three-tenths of a second to go.

Before the horn, Simms-Edwards heaved a shot of about 30 feet that was on line, but bounced off the front of the rim.

“We played as hard as we can play,” said Brown.

The Potters defeated the Panthers for the first time since Dec. 3, 2004.

The seniors all played a part during a span of Washington basketball with unparalleled success.

“I feel bad for our seniors,” Brown said. “It’s killing me knowing these five guys are leaving the locker room for the last time.”

Roth and Worner had six points apiece for Washington.

Lundeen also was in double figures for Morton with 14 points.