Wednesday, March 11, 2015

I'll be at Morton East... Cicero tonight to see the home team Mustangs host the Wolfpack from St. Ignatius in the sectional semifinals. The winner will take on No. 1-seed Riverside-Brookfield on Friday.

That's Chodl Auditorium, above, built in the Beaux-Arts style in 1925. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it seats over 2,500 and has a stage large enough to serve as a basketball court. But I expect the game will be played in a gym of some sort. 

If the name Morton rings a bell, maybe it's because the school, founded in 1894, was named after J. Sterling Morton, the founder of Arbor Day who served as Secretary of Agriculture under President Grover Cleveland. No? Nothing? Crickets?

Okay, how about this? Morton's son, Joy Morton (Joy?), was the founder of the Morton Salt Company and the Morton Arboretum in Lisle. Small world, huh?

As far as the game tonight (oh, yeah -- that), the No. 9-seed Mustangs upset both De La Salle, 64-58, and Whitney Young, 65-64, to get here. Ignatius, for its part, defeated Proviso East, 56-47, and upset Kenwood in overtime, 65-64, for the right to play in the semis. (For my take on that last one click here.)

So who wins this one? I don't know. Morton has a basketball tradition dating back to at least 1927 when it won something called the "Interscholastic Championship of the United States," organized by Amos Alonzo Stagg at the University of Chicago. But the Mustangs last won an Illinois state championship in 1941, when my dad was still in college. (I haven't found any famous basketball players among Morton's alumni, although Joe Mantegna* attended in the mid-1960s.)

The Mustangs are 16-11 and ranked No. 71 in the state by MaxPreps. They lost to Kenwood, 74-72, back in December but beat Proviso East, 74-58, just a couple of weeks ago.

St. Ignatius, which is known more for its academics than its athletic teams, is 22-8 and ranked No. 37 in the state by MaxPreps. The Wolfpack split with De La Salle, losing 52-48 in January but besting the Meteors a few weeks ago, 60-56.

So, again, who emerges victorious tonight? Despite playing on Morton's home court, I'm going to go with the Wolfpack. They had their scare Friday night when they needed overtime to defeat Kenwood  after leading the Broncos by 18 points at the end of the third quarter. Coach Rich Kehoe won't let that happen again. As for Morton, I'm afraid their Cinderella run may be coming to a screeching halt tonight. That last-second, one-point upset over Whitney Young on Friday may turn out to be the highlight of their season. (And it's a good highlight.)

If you can't make the game tonight, I'll be live-tweeting it @BoringOldWhtGuy. Otherwise, I'll see you there!

* If all you know about Joe Mantegna is his "work" in The Godfather Part III (one of the truly worst movies of all time) and as the voice of Fat Tony on The Simpsons, do yourself a favor and watch him in three David Mamet films, House of Games, Things Change and Homicide. You won't be disappointed. (Why haven't these movies gotten more attention?)

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