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Morris basketball set to open up with St. Bede

Back on Feb. 28, the top-seeded Morris Redskins drew Pontiac in their first 2011-12 playoff game, a semifinal at the Class 3A Kankakee Boys Basketball Regional.

Their postseason run went no further than that, as Pontiac dealt the Redskins a 55-44 upset to end their 16-11 season. The loss ended a streak of two successive regional championships for Morris.

Days before the start of the 2012-13 season, beginning a new streak was a top priority for at least one member of the team.

"My goal is to help my team to a regional championship," junior point guard Sam Allen said. "Really, it's just about working hard and doing everything I can to make the team better."

More than three months remain until the start of the postseason, though, and the Redskins know each step of the way between now and then must be taken seriously.

"The first thing is to focus on our turkey tournament in Coal City," 6-6 senior forward Ben Ortiz said. "After that we have the Plano tournament. We face one of our big rivals, Kaneland, in our very first conference game. We would like to beat everyone in our conference, but especially our big rivals like Kaneland and Yorkville. And through all of that, we're striving to be in position to win a regional championship."

For Morris, which lost leading scorer Jake Olson to graduation, Ortiz will be a key player. He is coming off a junior season during which he averaged 9.5 points per game and grabbed 108 rebounds.

A week before the season opener, coach Joe Blumberg said the rest of his starting lineup is in flux, largely because the other two seniors on the roster — 5-8 guard Jake Hogan and 5-11 guard Jason Matteson — have been unavailable due to football. The rest of the roster consists of Allen, junior guards Ricky Pelnarsh and Jonathon Turman, junior forwards Brock Kukman, Tony Rogalla, Tanner Sampson and Tyler Thuente, junior center Ned Kneller and sophomore guards Evan Bjelland and Austin Patterson.

For someone like Allen, who appeared in 14 varsity games in 2011-12, a substantial role increase is possible. Having played point guard since he was a third-grader at Nettle Creek School, Allen feels he is up to the challenge.

"I worked on my ballhandling all offseason," Allen said. "I've played point my entire life, so it's something I'm really comfortable with."

Morris has just the Coal City tournament scheduled in advance of its Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference East opener, which is at Kaneland on Nov. 30. To Blumberg, there is no clear favorite in the conference.

"Rochelle has probably the two best three-point shooters coming back in (Grant) Prusator and (Matt) Rosenwinkel," Blumberg said. "Sycamore should be in the mix. Kaneland will be missing Drew David for maybe the first couple of weeks, but it seems like regardless of who he has, coach (Brian) Johnson keeps them competitive. ... In (Andre) Harris, DeKalb has probably the best post player in our league. And of all the teams in our conference, Yorkville is the only one we've gone 0-4 against in conference play the last two years."

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