MORRIS – In many of the various basketball shootouts throughout the state, a game that takes place in the latter half of the first day is usually not a cause for great excitement. It’s just one of those things to get through to move on to the next day.
But when it pits a pair of neighborhood rivals, things change a little bit. The play gets a little more intense, and the teams have a little extra zip in their steps.
Such was the case Tuesday, when Morris and Minooka squared off in the Morris Girls Shootout. Each team had already won its first game in pool play, so this one shaped up to be good. Add to that the proximity of the two towns and the fact that they are back on each other’s schedule in the regular season, and the excitement almost matched the humidity in the Morris’ main gym.
Morris, which defeated Waubonsie Valley, 27-23, in its opener, hung with Minooka in the early going and even took an 11-8 lead midway through the first half. That’s when the Indians – 50-23 winners over Plano in their own opener – put the defensive clamps down and outscored the Redskins, 20-6, the remainder of the first half to open a 28-16 lead. Morris could not cut into the lead in the second half and Minooka walked away with a 43-31 win.
“We are still playing a mixture of girls,” Minooka coach Ray Liberatore said. “At the end of the first half, we put out there who we think will probably be our starting five. We wanted to see if we could turn a four-point lead into eight in those last five minutes or so, and we were able to do that.”
Spearheaded by multiple turnovers, the Minooka run to end the first half began with a 3-pointer by Sydney Arlis that tied the game at 11. Arlis followed that with a putback basket before Brooklyn Bachmann scored two straight baskets to make it, 17-11, with 5 minutes to play in the first half. Morris freshman Mya Shannon hit a three-pointer to trim the lead to 17-14, but Minooka answered with nine straight points. Heather Bonde hit a pair of free throws before Emily Knaub, Arlis and Bachmann all scored to make it, 26-14. Morris’ Julie Jurasits cut it to 26-16 before Arlis ended the half with a putback at the buzzer.
“We have a lot of girls that can finish shots,” Liberatore said. “Both of our point guards [Bachmann and Latricia Dean] are very fast, and Kelly Carnagio is one of the top post players in the area and teams have to honor that. We feel like we have some very good balance on this team.
“It’s always nice to play Morris, especially since we have them back on the schedule this year. [Morris coach] Kate [Carey] is doing a very nice job with them.”
Carey was pleased with the way her team played, but knows there is also room for improvement.
“We did a good job,” she said. “We were right there with them until we turned it over a few too many times at the end of the first half. We came out real strong, but we got a little fatigued. We aren’t conditioning over the summer the way we would during the season. We did some good things when we were fresh at the start of the game. I was happy to be competitive against a Minooka program that is always strong.
“We are trying some new things and need to get some reps. But, we use this shootout as a practice for those types of things in game situations, so we are trying to get a feel for the motion and the ball movement that we need. The turnovers showed us where we need to make better decisions, and that’s what this time is for.”
Shannon had nine points for the Redskins, while Jurasits scored seven and Jessica Ponce knocked down a three-pointer. Arlis led all scorers with 15 points for Minooka, with Bachmann adding 10 and Carnagio scoring eight.
“Julie [Jurasits] is our stud for sure,” Carey said. “She just does everything for us. But the way Mya played today, it makes it that much easier for Julie, and for Jessica Ponce and for Leona Burton. It’s hard to believe that two weeks ago, Mya was graduating from eighth grade.
“I was happy with how everyone played. All the girls tried something new in this game. For them to be willing to try something new was great, and I am very proud of them.”