PLANO — The hot shooting that had helped bring the Morris boys basketball team victories in the first two rounds of the Plano Christmas Classic abandoned the Redskins in the first half Wednesday in a 51-37 quarterfinal loss to Newark.
Morris, which had shot nearly 60 percent from the floor in its wins over Fenton and Streator, was able to muster up just 22.2 percent shooting in the first half Wednesday as Newark built a 26-14 halftime lead.
"I don't say this to take anything away from Newark, but I think the two 9 a.m. games caught up with us a bit," Morris coach Joe Blumberg said. "We lacked energy and intensity early. And that's very hard to understand, considering the atmosphere and opportunity we had.
"The game was called tight early, and that took away some of our aggressive play. I also thought we got caught up in the officials calls instead of just playing the game, and that starts with me. We are used to a more physical game, and we didn't adjust appropriately."
"We didn't handle their full court pressure and it was like pulling teeth, again, to get our guys to move without the ball. Their zone also frustrated us."
Foul trouble also plagued the Redskins, as starting guards Delaney Stutzki and JaQuan Boxley each fouled out and forward and second-leading scorer Tyler Spiezio finished the game with four fouls. Matt Shaw led the Redskins (4-5) with 13 points, but was the only Morris player to reach double figures. Boxley finished with nine points, while Spiazio had four points and a team-high seven rebounds.
Will Clausel tossed in a game-high 20 points to lead Newark, while Cameron Myre scored 11 and Beau Brown eight.
"We aren't that deep at the guard position, and having two starters foul out hurt any chance of a comeback," Blumberg said. "But they stretch out defenses well and Clausel is so good wth the ball in his hands that a 10-point deficit felt like 20."
Morris 45, Kaneland 26: Coming off of a defeat at the hands of fourth-seeded Newark at the Plano Holiday Classic, it might have been easy for the members of Morris boys basketball team to hang their heads and go through the motions for the rest of the tournament.
The 12th-seeded Redskins, however, shook off the defeat and started fresh Thursday, outscoring Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference rival Kaneland, the eighth seed, in every quarter en route to a 45-26 win to advance to Friday's fifth-place game against No.14 Peoria Notre Dame. Tipoff is at 5 p.m.
"After rewatching the Newark film, we were very disappointed with our team's effort," Morris coach Joe Blumberg said. "We didn't move without the ball, weren't sharp cutting to open space, and didn't attack versus their doubles. And our lack of offensive success led to poor defensive intensity and close outs. It's unacceptable and I feel bad for our fans that drove up to support us. We should be better than that."
The Redskins (5-5) gave the fans a show Thursday night, jumping out to a 7-0 lead in the early going and holding a 9-4 advantage through the first quarter. Morris extended its lead to 18-7 at halftime and 33-18 at the end of the third quarter.
"I thought our guys responded unbelievably well tonight," Blumberg said. "We converted layups off doubles and traps. I thought we attacked the offensive glass and did a good job defending Kaneland's posts. As the minutes ticked, and our lead grew, Kaneland increased their pressure, and for the most part, we responded."
"Josh Lain and Kam Dransfeldt sparked us off the bench. Nate Halcomb was very good in the defensive end Ty Spiezio was more aggressive attacking the run off the bounce and cuts."
Lain was 2 of 2 from the field to finish with four points and added four rebounds, while Dransfeldt blocked a shot and had three steals. Matt Shaw led the Redskins in scoring with 16 points and added five rebounds, while JaQuan Boxley had 11 points to go with four rebounds and two steals. Spiezio led with nine rebounds and chipped in with eight points.
"Getting back to the Newark game, we asked our guys after today's game: If you had played as hard against Newark as you did tonight, could the outcome have been different? And their collective answer was, absolutely," Blumberg said. "And that's the tough part about not giving a max effort. They will never get that opportunity or chance back. Ever. The pain of discipline and effort is never as difficult as the pain of regret."
Peoria Notre Dame 44, Morris 31: In the tournament's fifth-place game, the Redskins (5-6) opened the game by taking a 7-6 lead at the end of the first quarter, but struggled to find the range in the middle quarters. Peoria Notre Dame outscored Morris 25-9 in the second and thrid quarters to take a 31-16 lead into the fourth quarter.
Matt Shaw led Morris with 15 points, but he was the only Redskin to reach double digits in the scoring column. Tyler Spiezio had seven points to go with a team-high five rebounds, while Payton Voitik was a perfect 3 for 3 from the field off the bench to finish with six points. Morris shot just 10 of 33 (30.3 percent) from the floor for the game.
Shaw was named to the all-tournament team after finishing with a scoring average of 17 points per game. He tied for second with 14 three-pointers made (14 of 29, 48.3 percent). His PARS (Points+Assists+Rebounds+Steals) total was sixth in the tournament with 123. Spiezio tied for fourth in the tournament with a rebounding avearge of 7.2 per game.