COAL CITY — In the final game of the Coal City Turkey Tournament Saturday night, Morris pulled out a 56-45 win over the host Coalers, giving the Redskins a 2-1 finish in the tournament.
Morris came into the game shorthanded as several of its top guys were all still playing football the Redskins, limiting head coach Joe Blumberg to only 10 players.
Despite the lack of depth, Morris was able to start strong, jumping out to a 16-12 first quarter advantage. Senior Ben Ortiz led the way early, as he scored eight of his team-high 17 points in the opening frame for the Redskins.
"My shot was working early and that helped us," Ortiz said. "But I knew that it wasn't going to work all night."
In the second quarter, Morris continued to build its lead, at one point going up 28-18. Coal City responded, however, as it closed the half on a 9-2 run to cut the lead to three at the half.
"We knew what we had to do, and that was get the ball inside," Coal City coach Brad Boresi said. "We started taking care of the ball better, forcing turnovers and scoring on fast breaks."
Coal City continued its run in the third quarter, eventually taking the lead on back-to-back shots from junior Nick Peters. These were four of Peters' game-high 24 points on the night. After a Morris timeout, the Coalers kept building the lead, going up four with one minute left.
Then, with time running out in the quarter, the Redskins got a huge three-point basket from junior Ricky Pelnarsh, cutting the Morris deficit to one heading into the fourth.
"I really thought our subs stepped up for us today," Blumberg said. "We had just given up that run-out basket to them, and then Pelnarsh came down and hit that three and it really jump started us and gave us momentum heading into the fourth."
"That was a key moment in the game," Boresi added. "We just left him open, and he was able to hit that three. Instead of having a four point lead going into the fourth we were only up one."
Using that momentum from the big shot, Morris came out on fire in the fourth, scoring the first ten points in the frame. Sophomore Austin Patterson and junior Sam Allen both hit big threes during that stretch that saw Morris go from down one to up nine.
"When our scorers get open looks in the flow of our offense they're going to make those baskets," Blumberg said. "When we're hitting shots, we play better defense as well. That confidence led to more stops."
Overall in the fourth, Morris outscored Coal City 19-7, as it pulled away with the 11-point victory. The Redskins went 2-1 in the tournament, which is a positive since they were down several players.
"A winning record is nice, but we really wanted to beat St. Bede (who won the tournament). They've won it a couple years in a row now, and it was a tough two point loss to them," Ortiz said. "To have a winning record going into next week, however, is big for us."
With the return of the football players next week, the Redskins will finally be able to go at full strength.
"Physically they're not going to be 100 percent because they just got through a long football season," Blumberg said. "Football shape and basketball shape are different, too, so we have to get them healthy while also conditioning them. It'll take some time, but they immediately bring experience and leadership to our team."
St. Bede 70,
St. Bede clinched its third championship in three tries Saturday night, while Gardner-South Wilmington completed an 0-3 showing. Hunter Eutsey's 7 points led the Panthers.
Ben Ortiz scored 23 points to lead Morris to its first win of the season Friday night. Austin Patterson added 12 as the Redskins were 6-for-13 from 3-point land but just 11-for-34 on regular field goals.
"We are certainly glad to eek out a win, but we aren't happy with our play. It was noticeable after the game. ... First varsity win for most of these guys and you could hear a pin drop in the locker room," Blumberg said. "I thought Gardner beat us up on the boards. They were quicker to loose balls. They were scrappy and played with more intensity. We cannot expect to play that way and compete in our (Northern Illinois Big 12 East) conference.
"We had some of our younger guys make some big plays late. Tanner Sampson rotated properly and got a big steal, sophomore Austin Patterson had big rebounds and two clutch free throws."
Tristan Noonan led GSW with 17 points.
St. Bede 65,
Coal City 45
Brennen Shetina scored 16 points and added four rebounds and three assists Friday for the Coalers. They got 11 points from Nick Peters and nine with six rebounds from Lane Cowherd.
"We got in foul trouble in the first half and managed to be down only four at half," Coal City coach Brad Boresi said. "To start the second half, we had too many breakdowns on defense and turned it over way too much."