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Tough competition awaits Morris in regional play

A 52-42 loss to DeKalb on Jan. 7 dropped the Morris girls basketball team, which was then 7-8, below .500 for the first time this season.

Now, the 9-15 Redskins would have to win the Class 3A state championship to finish with a winning record.

Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference East play, which comprised much of the second half of the season, was not kind to Morris, which went 0-10. It was its second straight winless conference season and its third straight last-place finish.

“It’s a tough conference,” first-year Morris coach Kate Carey said. “We’re in there with everybody. We just aren’t pulling out the W’s. We lost by two to Yorkville. We’re in a battle with Kaneland, and then you see that Yorkville and Kaneland are close. Everyone’s right there. We only lost by 10 to DeKalb, the No. 1 team in the conference. It’s tough. It’s disheartening.”

The schedule does not get easier as Morris enters the Class 3A postseason. It is seeded fifth in the five-team Morris Regional, and will face Lincoln-Way West in a quarterfinal game Monday.

Lincoln-Way West defeated Morris 70-55 at the Ottawa Christmas Classic earlier this season. In that game, Morris fell behind 40-25 by halftime before closing its deficit in the second half.

There is history of Morris upsetting Lincoln-Way West in regional play, and doing so on its own floor. At the 2011 Morris Regional, top-seeded Lincoln-Way West was upset 58-48 by the Redskins in the semifinals. The Warriors is entering Monday’s game on a four-game losing streak.

“We’ve come a long way since Christmas, and made some improvements, made some changes that we needed to do,” Morris senior Katie Friend said. “I think it’s going to be a competitive game, and hopefully we’ll be able to come out on top.”

With a win Monday, the Redskins would face top-seeded Joliet Catholic Academy Tuesday in a regional semifinal game. Joliet Catholic is ranked second in the state in Class 3A by the Associated Press and is 22-2 overall.

Thursday’s regional championship will pit Joliet Catholic, Lincoln-Way West or Morris against either Coal City (26-1) or Providence (17-12).

“I see it as a challenge. Nothing to be worried, like, get down on. It’ll be good for us, with the challenging teams and higher-ranked teams,” Morris leading scorer Julie Jurasits said. “I think everyone sees us as the underdog, so I think when we come out there and show everybody what we’re really made of, it’ll surprise everyone.”

Through 19 games, Jurasits had scored more than twice as many points (305) for Morris as its second-leading scorer, Leona Burton (148). Friend and guard Jessica Ponce were both averaging more than 6 points a game, as well.

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