COAL CITY – For the Morris basketball team, seven different players scored in the season opener at the Coal City Turkey Tournament. In the last 6:31 of the game during a 14-point run that put the game away, six different players scored. That all added up to a 68-50 win over the Gardner-South Wilmington Panthers on Tuesday.
The game did have its highs and lows before the final run by the Redskins. Morris led 18-6 at the end of the first quarter, but GSW put on a press that resulted in a 28-all tie by halftime. Still, the defining moment came in the fourth quarter after six unanswered baskets and a free throw by the Redskins.
“We knew after the run that they made in the second quarter that we weren’t going to be able to lay low on them,” Morris senior Brock Kukman said. “We knew that we had to keep pushing it. When we came out of that timeout, that was when we knew we had to keep going.”
That timeout came after GSW got an early fourth-quarter bucket by Blake Marks. What transpired after the timeout was points by Tanner Sampson and Sam Allen, a free throw by Kukman, a 3-point bucket by Austin Patterson, a basket by Kukman and then field goals from Evan Bjelland and Jake Walker to finish it off.
“They had a very good balanced attack,” GSW coach Chris Gibson said. “We had to worry about more than just one guy. When that happens it makes things a little more difficult on the defense.”
“Our guards started attacking the basket,” Morris coach Joe Blumberg said. “We attacked the rim and that opened up perimeter shots. That eventually opened things up on the inside for the guys. But at that time we distributed the ball well and made better decisions.”
Morris also made a run early in the third quarter that opened up a 10-point lead for the Redskins. That held up as the margin at the end of the third quarter (54-44).
Morris opened the game by outscoring the Panthers 18-6 on 7 of 13 shooting before GSW answered with the big second- quarter run themselves.
“We switched up to the press and I don’t think they were ready for it,” Gibson said. “I don’t think either team handled the pressure very well. They figured ours out but we didn’t figure theirs out. That was the biggest thing. That’s what got us back in the game. In the second quarter, they turned it over and we made shots.”
“They switched up their defense and I know we had a lot of turnovers,” Blumberg said. “We didn’t respond to it well. In the first quarter, the baskets were coming easy and I think the guys expected that to continue.”
Morris was led in scoring by Walker with 17 points. Austin Patterson had 15 points and Evan Bjelland had 14 points. GSW was led by Tristan Noonan’s 18 points.
Morris will play Friday against Serena at 5:30 p.m. GSW plays Coal City at 7 p.m. that same night.