MORRIS — Even though both teams played in the Plano Christmas Classic last week, Coal City and Morris did not play each other. They did meet in the Coal City Turkey Tournament in late November, but Morris was just welcoming the players that joined the team after the football season had finished just a week before. Even so, the Redskins came away with a 47-27 victory.
The two local rivals met again Tuesday night in Morris' gym, with the Redskins a little closer to full strength and the Coalers having improved with more time on the court as well.
The result was a 59-38 Morris win in just their second home game of the season that left both head coaches seeing room for more improvement from their teams.
"Defensively, we didn't do a very good job tonight," Morris coach Joe Blumberg said. "We didn't do well stopping the ball or cutting off the baseline. It's not going to be very fun in Ottawa on Friday if we come out and play this type of defense. Our intensity on that end of the floor has to improve."
For Coal City, improvement is the name of the game.
"We worked our offense pretty well and got some shots that we wanted," Coaler coach Keith Kiper said. "The biggest thing for us right now is to get some of those shots to fall. We don't seem to have more than one guy hitting shots on a given night and we need to have better balance."
Morris, on the other hand, had one of its better offensive outputs, putting three players in double figures. JaQuan Boxley led all scorers with 21 points, while Delaney Stutzki scored 14 and carried the Redskins to a 23-14 halftime lead by scoring 11 points before intermission.
Not normally an outside shooter, Stutzki took found himself open from deep and made all three of his three-point attempts in the first half.
"They were sagging a little bit when I had the ball and letting me have the shots, so I took them," he said. "[Leading scorer] Matt [Shaw] wasn't really feeling it tonight, so someone needed to step up and get us some baskets."
While Stutzki took care of the scoring in the first half, it was Boxley doing most of the damage in the second. Coal City (4-10) cut the Morris lead to 28-23 midway through the third quarter on an old-fashioned three-point play by Jake Brnca (team-high 14 points) before Boxley went on a personal 7-0 run, including a three-point basket, to push Morris (6-6) ahead, 35-23 and Shaw (12 points) hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to give the Redskins a 38-23 cushion heading into the fourth.
"It was nice to see the balance offensively," Blumberg said. "When we get Delaney and JaQuan and even Tyler Spiezio making a three-pointer or two, it opens up driving lanes and also keeps teams from keying so much on Matt. We still need to get more touches in the post, though. If we can get that part of our game going, we can be hard to stop."
For most of the season, Christian Johnson (7 points) has been the Coalers' leading scorer, but Kiper was pleased to see Brnca shoulder some of the scoring load.
"Jake is a player who can do a lot of things," he said. "When he's feeling it like he was tonight, he's hard to stop. We just need to spread things out and take more advantage of some of the mismatches we have. Going 2 for 9 from the free throw line in the first half didn't help us much, either. We have to do better there, too."
Morris evened its record at 6-6 heading into a busy weekend that will see them visit Plano tournament champ Ottawa on Friday night at 7 before heading to the United Center in Saturday afternoon at 2 to take on Seneca. Coal City, meanwhile, visits Reed-Custer on Friday night.
Ottawa 49, Morris 39: Meghan Smith scored 14 points to lead Morris (10-6, 2-2) in the Northern Illinois Big 12 loss. Mya Shannon added 13 points for the Redskins, while Meghan Jurak scored seven, Paige Valentine three and Tailor Vuckovich two.
Morris sophomores 33, Ottawa 29 (OT): Morris (7-8, 3-1) overcame an 11-point deficit to defeat Ottawa in overtime. Alisson Bojovic and Tailor Vuckovich both scored 10 points. Carli Foddrill added nine points, while Megan Gerischer scored four.