MORRIS — Most basketball coaches view the summer in terms of improvement on the court rather than wins and losses. To that end, Morris girls basketball coach Luke Windy liked what he saw out of his team in the first day of the Morris Lady Redskins Shootout.
Morris opened the 32-team event by playing Coal City and scoring a 24-20 victory. The Lady Redskins then lost decisions of 36-19 to Andrew and 65-17 to Plainfield South to end up at 1-2 in their pool. And, that was without returning starters Mackenzie Lind (on vacation) and Alexis Johnson (on a school field trip in Europe).
"Our basketball knowledge is definitely better than it was last year during the summer, and even during the basketball season," WIndy said. "We are reacting better on defense and to what the other defense does. We want to be competitive in games and, for the most part this summer, we have been.
"We played well against Coal City, which is a team will probably see in the regular season and the regional. Andrew and Plainfield South aren't teams we would normally see, but that's what the summer is for. We got a chance to see a couple of teams with some very big and fast athletes and try to compete against that.
"Overall, I would say our defense has improved and our offense has improved. We feel like we are in a pretty good spot right now. Much better than we were last year at this time."
The 8 a.m. tipoff time in the opener was a little tough for both teams to shake in the Morris-Coal City game, and it was a 9-9 tie at halftime. The offenses picked up in the second half, and the game was still close at 14-13 midway through the second half. Morris' Faith Ritter soored to put the Redskins ahead 16-13, and Kyla Kjellesvik followed by going the length of the floor with a rebound and finishing with a layup for an 18-13 lead. With 4:35 remaining, Morris' Alex Smith turned a steal into a layup to put Morris ahead, 20-16. After the two teams traded baskets, Ritter scored the final bucket for Morris before Coal City's Madison Emerson scored to provide the final margin.
Morris again kept things tight early against Andrew, trailing just 4-3 after the first 10 minutes of the 20-minute first half. Andrew, though, outscored Morris 18-7 in the final 10 minutes of the half to take a 22-10 halftime lead. The Thunderbolts increased the edge to 28-10 in the early going of the second half to effectively put the game away. Morris got some solid contributions throughout the game from freshmen Moriah Mayberry and Kenya Jenkins, who were suited up to take the place of Lind and Johnson.
"Our game is based on the team concept," WIndy said. "We aren't going to have the one player scoring 15 points a game. We need to have everyone contributing, and we had that. Everyone seemed to know where they should be on the court and where their teammates were going to be.
"We showed good teamwork, which is what we want to have. We have girls who want to be here and are working hard, which is good to see. It has been tough to get everyone working together after having them come in from four different feeder programs, but we are getting there. After a full year together last year and the summer this year, there is a huge improvement."