PLANO – Morris ended its two-game losing streak against Coal City on Friday night, winning 57-51 in a quarterfinal game at the 51st annual Plano Christmas Classic.
The win puts the Redskins in the semifinals, where they will play at 8:30 p.m. today, but it does not avenge last season’s regional title loss for Morris coach Joe Blumberg.
“You know, we didn’t talk an awful lot about the [Class 3A Herscher] regional title. The plaque’s still in their school. Winning this ballgame didn’t get the plaque back,” Blumberg said. “It didn’t get us the [Coal City] Thanksgiving Tournament championship, but I think they’re more excited that we get to play at 8:30.”
For the second straight night, the Coalers fell behind big, early. Two 3-pointers from Austin Patterson and one from Evan Bjelland helped Morris sprint ahead. Coal City was down 15-4 before Segal Arias drove for a basket at the 2:50 mark of the first quarter.
“The guys have to realize you’re playing a team that you beat earlier in the season, that you ended their season last year,” Coal City coach Brad Boresi said. “If you expect them not to come out ready to play, I mean, you’re not very smart.”
The Coalers closed to within 17-10 by the end of the first, but after the Coalers got within one point in the second quarter, Morris ended the half on a 7-2 run to lead 28-22 at the break.
Coal City continued to chip away throughout the third quarter, finally catching the Redskins at 42-all on a Brennen Shetina 3-pointer in the closing seconds. A Nick Peters putback gave them the lead to open the fourth, and it changed hands five times in the next few minutes.
The last of those exchanges came on a Jake Walker 3-pointer that put Morris ahead 51-49 with 2:42 to play. Bjelland followed with a steal and a fast break basket a short time later. The Redskins’ lead got no larger until the closing seconds, but both teams had unfulfilled opportunities; they combined to miss the front end of three straight 1-and-1s, and the Coalers missed their final five field-goal attempts.
Peters led all players with 22 points, with Shetina getting 13 and Lane Cowherd had 11 for Coal City, which suffered its first loss against seven wins. Patterson’s 15 points were a Morris high, though Bjelland was right behind with 13.
“It feels good to get a win,” Patterson said. “We knew that Peters was gonna be a tough guy to handle. Tonight we didn’t handle him as well as we should have, but it was a good game to play and watch.”