Libertyville notches regional title game win over Lake Zurich
Members of Libertyville's girls basketball team call Marianna Morrissey "Mari" for short.
That's not much of a nickname.
How about "Igniter?"
Morrissey, a 5-foot-7 junior and the first Wildcat off the bench all season, was that -- and then some -- in Libertyville's 50-38 defeat of host Lake Zurich in a Class 4A regional championship game Thursday night.
The highly athletic guard fueled her team's 23rd straight victory with a 14-point, 6-rebound, 4-steal night.
"She brought it tonight, didn't she?" Libertyville coach Greg Pedersen said after his club secured a Palatine sectional semifinal berth against Fremd on Monday. "Marianna has all this natural athletic ability; she's got speed and hops.
"When you have those two things, man, watch out," he added.
A righty, Morrissey scored on a lefty layup shortly after entering the contest midway through the first quarter. She would tie senior teammate Lydia Crow (3 steals) for a game-high 9 points in the first half.
Morrissey turned 2 of her 4 steals in the second quarter into layups at the other end. Her fourth-quarter block, followed quickly by her rebound, led to a field goal from junior guard Lauren Huber in the first minute, stretching Libertyville's lead to 36-23.
"She must play soccer," Lake Zurich coach Chris Bennett said of Morrissey, who also scored via a putback off a missed free throw in the final frame. "That's soccer footwork, her kind of footwork. Fast, great defender, and she's so hard to guard.
"It's hard to guard a bunch of Libertyville's players," the coach added after his seventh-seeded Bears finished with a 16-14 record.
Second-seeded Libertyville (27-4) won its second regional title in a row and third in four seasons.
The Wildcats outscored the hosts 13-4 in the second quarter but managed only 5 points to LZ's 11 in the third quarter, when LZ outrebounded Libertyville 11-2. The Bears (0-3 vs. Libertyville this winter) capped the third stanza with an 8-0 run, getting a pair of treys from senior guard Margueret Spear (14 points).
But Morrissey, who's thinking about going out for track and field for the first time this spring -- as a sprinter, no surprise -- exhausted a game LZ crew.
"Teams are sagging on her, and Marianna is taking advantage of that with her aggressiveness," Pedersen noted. "When she's playing well, I can't take her out of the game; that's what happened tonight."
A Huber freebie put Libertyville up 42-27 with 1:54 left in the fourth quarter. A comfy gap, right? Nope. Bears freshman guard Baylie Parks (8 points), playing like a seasoned junior, hit two 3-pointers in a 21-second span, and 3 straight free throws from Spear cut the visitors' advantage to 45-36 with 48 ticks remaining.
"Lake Zurich," Morrissey said, "kept attacking, attacking."
And Wildcats senior guard Margaret Buchert (12 points) kept making, making free throws -- 10, with 8 coming in the final 8 minutes.
Wildcats freshman guard Emily Fisher netted 7 points and came down with 5 boards. LZ sophomore Alayna Soukup contributed 11 points, scoring at least 2 points in each quarter, and 5-10 freshman teammate Brooke Wahlund snared a game-high 13 rebounds, including 5 of her team's 6 in the final quarter.