Finishing the final day of the Ottawa Girls Holiday Tournament with a 2-0 record, the Morris girls basketball team finished ninth at the annual event Monday.
After dropping games on Friday to Lincoln-Way West (70-55) and then LaSalle-Peru (53-49), the Redskins bounced back to beat Kankakee, 60-42, Monday morning and then defeated Sandwich, 50-21, later in the day.
“It’s disappointing that we couldn’t get into that winners bracket but this is what we needed – the two wins,” Morris junior Julie Jurasits said. “We need to work on defense and this gave us the chance to work on that the last two games.
“We really focused on that. We’ll take it.”
Morris coach Kate Carey said she was disappointed the best the team could do was finish ninth in the final round.
“That’s the most frustrating thing to me,” she said. “We played teams today that were not of our caliber. We played tough against Lincoln-Way West … and played poorly (against LaSalle-Peru). So, we earned our way into this bracket.”
The Morris girls had some specific goals when playing the Lady Kays on Monday.
“We came out and wanted to play defense. We were working on our 22 and the press,” Morris guard Jessica Ponce said. “I thought we did better than we usually do. We got more turnovers off the press and scored a lot more off of them.”
Morris led 19-7 after the first quarter and then 36-19 at halftime.
“First half we came out strong. We had told the girls before the game, we didn’t want to give up any offensive rebounds to the other team – that we wanted to take care of the boards on the defensive end,” Carey said. “The first quarter we didn’t give up any [points] but then gave up five in the second. In a game like that I like to set smaller goals and see the girls improve. We met some today and didn’t meet others. I wanted to use this game to work on some things. The press – and we did that.”
Ponce and Jurasits each finished with 14 points to lead Morris.
Once again, the Redskins put the emphasis on where they fell short in the second half against Kankakee.
“Defense is really what coach wants us to work on,” Jurasits said. “With our energy level, we weren’t really talking. Everything that went wrong in the last game, we tried to fix this game.”
It seemed to work as Morris allowed Sandwich just six points in the first quarter and then three more in the second to hold a 31-9 halftime lead. Morris led after three by a 46-16 score – which meant a running clock via the mercy rule the entire fourth quarter.
“It’s there to keep the schedule moving,” Carey said of the rule. “We host the shootout every year and understand that. I don’t mind the process of keeping it moving.”
Jurasits led Morris with 20 points with 15 of them coming in the first quarter.
“I was open, so I’ll take what I get,” Jurasits said.
The other upside to the runaway win against Sandwich was that Carey was able to unload the bench in the game.
“They got their time. We’re on a mission to continue to improve our defense,” she said. “That’s been our major downfall so far. The more we can get everybody up to snuff on defense, the better. Everyone needs the reps.”
Morris is now 7-6 on the season and will resume play after the new year with a winning record – something Carey finds important.
“We’re back to a winning record before Christmas, so that’s something to take away from this,” she said. “We were also able to work on a few things. Overall, I’d have rather been in the top bracket, but we’ll have to shoot for that next year now.”