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Oesterle: Basketball shootout celebrates another successful year

Published: Friday, June 27, 2014 8:37 p.m. CDT • Updated: Saturday, June 28, 2014 9:28 a.m. CDT
(Craig Lincoln file photo for Shaw Media)
Morris senior Cody Niewinski battles against a stiff Normal defense during the second half on Thursday in Morris at the Morris Shootout. Normal went on to win the tournament title.

There may have been odd circumstances for the Morris boys basketball team Thursdayat the 29th annual Morris Boys Shootout, but overall, the two-day event was a success.

First, the Redskins got to play against the two teams that ended up being in the tournament championship, Rockford Auburn and Normal Community. Granted, Morris lost both games, but the chance to play against such quality competition is never one to take lightly. Normal beat Rockford Auburn, 56-53, to win the championship. Rockford had defeated Morris, 70-30, Wednesday, and Normal beat the Redskins, 62-35, Thursday.

“Playing teams like Normal Community and Rockford Auburn is what this tournament is all about,” Morris coach Joe Blumberg said. “If we want to continue to make history with our program and go win another regional and win the first game of a sectional, we are probably going to have to play a team like that. Those games let us know that we still have a ways to go, but it also let us know what we have to work on.

“I think the coaches in the tournament like that about our format. We are able to put them in pools where they will see teams they don’t normally see. No one wants to show up to a big tournament somewhere and end up playing a team from their own conference. They want to see what else is out there, and we try to give them that chance.”

Second, even though many key players missed games for various reasons, it gave other players who might not have had the opportunity a chance to get on the court and gain valuable experience. No matter how much time you put in during practice or in the weight room or on the track, nothing beats getting out there and playing when it comes to learning what you need to know to play basketball. To that end, the shootout experience was a valuable part of the team’s education.

“Our players got some good game experience,” Blumberg said. “That should help our bench depth when the season comes along. What our guys do need to know, though, is that the tournament doesn’t end the summer. It really begins the summer. They still have July, August, September and October to continue to practice their individual skills and continue to develop.”

And, despite the mix-ups with one team not showing up and another leaving mid-tourney, Blumberg still felt the tournament went over better than expected. He had many thanks to give.

“I have several compliments,” he said. “First thing, I have to say that the competition level is definitely improving. Next, I have to thank my coaching staff,” he said. “(Assistant coaches) Todd Kein and Ray Burgess have been doing this with me so long and took care of so many things that I probably didn’t even know half of the issues that arose, because they were on top of things.

“I also want to thank the players and parents for volunteering. They put in a lot of time in the concession stand, taking money for tickets, working the grill. Even when our players’ games were over, their day wasn’t. They stayed and worked. They did before their games, too. They didn’t get to relax for two days, and they were pretty exhausted, both physically and mentally, when it was over.

“I want to thank the programs we invited. I try to invite quality teams with good coaches that do things the right way, and I think we did that. Also, Joe Thomas did a great job with the officials. He and his guys did a great job of managing things on the courts and making sure we were on time. Patty Tesdal and Rochelle Bjelland spent a lot of time in the hospitality room making sure the coaches and officials were taken care of, which was a huge help to us.

“I need to thank our sponsors – Corleone’s, Chicago Pizza Department, Turtle’s and R-Place – for the food they donated to the hospitality rooom and concession stands. And lastly and probably most importantly, the City of Morris for allowing us to have another successful tournament. We are really looking forward to the 30th annual shootout next year.”

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