PEORIA — Morgan Park shrugged off its unsightly shooting because its emphasis is defense.
Coach Nick Irvin joked that he would be happy with a 2-0 win, but he wasn't laughing for the three-plus minutes his Mustangs were stuck on zero Friday afternoon.
"Usually, I would be going crazy on the sideline," Irvin said. "I had to control myself today. I told the guys we just have to score one basket and we'll break the ice."
Charlie Moore did so with a 3-pointer, Josh Cunningham had 15 points and seven rebounds and defending Class 3A champion Morgan Park is back in the title game following a 52-46 victory over Orr in an all-Public League state semifinal at Carver Arena.
Moore had 12 points and four steals and Morgan Park (23-6) made up for 28.6-percent shooting by making 26 of 33 free-throw attempts (78.8 percent) to earn a date with Lincoln in Saturday's 2 p.m. final.
"(The season) was ups and downs," said the 5-foot-7 Moore, a sophomore point guard known as much for his ability as the chances he's usually willing to take.
"I was more careful today. The seniors told me to take care of the ball and they are going to take care of me and we will get to the state championship."
Orr (24-5) erased its 24-15 halftime deficit and tied the score at 37 with about five minutes remaining. The Spartans trailed by one after a pair of Marlon Jones free throws with 1 minute, 11 seconds left.
It took Morgan Park's two most experienced players all of three seconds to answer with the play of the game — a Cunningham dunk off a length-of-the-floor pass from Lamont Walker that gave the Mustangs a 47-43 cushion.
"We saw a matchup; Josh had a bigger dude on him," Walker said. "I knew Josh was faster than him."
"They are the best at it," Irvin said. "They make eye contact and it's over."
Player of the game: Josh Cunningham, Morgan Park, 15 points, 7 rebounds.
Key performers: Orr — Marlon Jones, 15 points; Louis Adams, 12 points, 4 steals. Morgan Park — Charlie Moore, 12 points, 4 steals; Markus Johnson, 6 points, 12 rebounds.
Next: 3A final — Morgan Park vs. Lincoln, 2 p.m. Saturday, Carver Arena, Peoria.Copyright © 2015, RedEye