Morton College's Mia Simpson, shown during a game earlier this year, helped the Panthers to a fifth-place finish in the nation and surpassed 1,000 career points. Photo by Jeff Vorva
Area Sports Roundup | Morton College takes 5th in nation
By Jeff Vorva
For three quarters, Janiah Jones’ stats were bland.
The Richard Bland College guard had just two points. But she lit things up in the fourth quarter, scoring 16 of her team’s 18 points to help Bland stun Morton College, 69-63, in the quarterfinals of the National Junior College Athletic Association Division II National Quarterfinals onMarch 23 in Port Huron, Michigan.
Morton, the top seed in the tournament, had its 32-game winning streak snapped. The Panthers (34-1) subsequently won two more games to finish fifth in the nation.
Morton was the national runner-up in 2022.
Morton players Kaylen Evans and Mia Simpson, both Nazareth graduates, were named to the all-tournament team.
Evans, a sophomore who transferred from Loyola Chicago, averaged 18.3 points a game in the tournament and connected on 16 3-point baskets.
Simpson, who eclipsed the 1,000-point mark for her career in the tournament, averaged 12.3 points, 13 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 3.3 steals per tournament game.
Then there was one…
The St. Rita basketball team has just one player remaining from the heralded class of 2024 players who entered St. Rita together as freshmen.
Illinois recruit Morez Johnson is the last of the foursome at the school after 6-foot-10 North Carolina recruit James Brown announced he was transferring to Link Academy in Branson, Missouri.
Former Mustang player Josh Pickett left after his freshman year and ended up at West Aurora. Jaedin Reyna left during his sophomore season and played at Bishop Noll in Indiana this season.
Brown averaged 11 points and nine rebounds for St. Rita, which played a challenging national schedule and finished 23-11. That included a 74-52 loss to Link in a national tournament on Jan. 12.
With players coming and going so frequently, it is going to be tough to predict who is going to be on the Mustangs roster next season. So far, Johnson and Iowa State recruit Nojus Indrusaitis are seniors-to-be still with the program. Junior-to-be Melvin Bell, who was injured a good chunk of the season, has reportedly received offers from Stanford, Michigan, Illinois, Missouri and Eastern Michigan.
King named All-American
Saint Xavier men’s senior guard Jaeden King was named to the NAIA All-American Third Team. The Minnesota native is the first Cougar since former standout Larry Motuzis, who was a third-team NAIA All-American after the 2015-16 season, to earn the honor.
Quinn Niego was a two-time NAIA All-American honorable Mention in 2016-17 and 2017-18, and King’s former teammate Joshua Evans claimed NAIA All-American honorable mention last season.
The NAIA does not consider honorable mentions to be official all-americans.
King played in and started 28 of the team’s 32 games this season, pouring 574 points for an average of 20.5 per game. He finished No. 25 in single-season scoring for SXU and his average put him at No. 13 single-season all-time at the school.
King shot at a 53.0 percent clip (204-for-385) and an impressive 45.8 percent (65-for-142) from 3-point range, and made 79.5 percent of his foul shot attempts (101-for-127). He pulled down 149 rebounds and had 41 steals, 17 assists and 10 blocked shots.
Nationally, he was sixteenth in scoring average, twenty-sixth in total points, thirtieth in 3-pt field goal percentage and thirty-fifth in field goals made.
“We are very proud of Jaeden being named an NAIA All-American,” Cougars coach Robert Ford said in a news release. “He puts in a lot of work to his game and spends extra time in the gym. After having a tough time last season battling injuries, I’m happy he was able to bounce back and have the season that he had this year.”
Acosta an All-American, too
Saint Xavier senior bowler Alex Acosta was named an NAIA first team All-American.
Acosta is the first bowler for the Cougars to earn NAIA All-American recognition. He was named a National Collegiate Bowling Coaches Association All-American honorable mention last season.
Acosta finished in first place in two tournaments this season. He totaled 1,379 pins at the Ebonite Warhawk Open on Dec. 3 and 1,443 pins to win the Columbia 300 Hoosier Classic on Feb. 18.
Acosta was also named to the All-Tournament Team at the Columbia 300 Western Shootout on Oct. 15 after a third-place finish, as well at the Golden Eagle Invitational on September 24 with a fifth-place draw.
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