MORRIS — Success in a summer high school basketball tournament isn't always measured in wins and losses or where in the bracket a team may have finished.
Case in point, the Morris boys basketball team did not win a game in the 34th edition of the Morris Boys Shootout, but coach Joe Blumberg will consider the summer of 2019 a success for his club.
"Quote from Joe..."
After going 0-3 in pool play Wednesday, the Redskins opened Thursday's play with a 57-28 loss to Neuqua Valley, setting up a matchup with neighboring rival Minooka, which was defeated by Washington, 41-34, in its first-round game in the Maroon Bracket.
What followed was one of the many tight games of the tourney, with Minooka claiming a 36-32 overtime victory. Morris led much of the way, only to see Minooka rally and take a 32-30 lead late in regulation. The Redskins were able to get a turnover with just a few seconds remaining, and Collin Cummings hit a short baseline jumper as time expired to tie it at 32. Minooka, however, scored all four points in the two-minute extra session to claim the victory.
"I can't say enough about our players," Blumberg said. "To be a little overmatched in the games they played, and then to work eight hours each day after playing two or three games says a lot about them.
"I got a lot of compliments about our players from other coaches about the way our guys conducted themselves and how they ran the scoreboards, were on top of things and cleaned up after the games."
The Indians went on to win edge Ottawa, 37-36, in their next game to move on to the Maroon Bracket consolation championship, where they lost to Joliet Central, 53-39.
Defending IHSA Class 3A champion Chicago Bogan won the overall tournament championship, defeating Joliet West, 61-49, in the title game. Even the score indicates otherwise, the title game was another tight affair, as it was a three-point game in the final minute before the Bengals pulled away with a late run.
Bringing in a quality field has always been a priority for Blumberg, and he feels that the multitude of competitive games over the tourney's two days is indicative of that.
"We always want to have quality competition," he said. "We really felt like we had that again this year. Bogan and Joliet West, the two teams in the title game, were in the same pool on the first day. You can't predict that, but putting the pools together is one of the hardest things. You don't want conference teams in the same pool, some teams have to play early because they have a night league and some teams have to play later in the day because they have kids in summer school in the morning. We try to do the best we can to accommodate everyone."
Aside from the quality of competition, which was evidenced in the fact that five of the eight four-team pools had to use the three-way tiebreaker to determine bracket seeds, visiting coaches were just as enamored of the treatment they received at the event, many of them taking to Twitter to openly thank Blumberg and the Morris basketball program for their hospitality and for a well-run event.
Though Blumberg was singled out in many of the compliments, he humbly diverted the praise to the multitude of behind-the-scenes workers that contributed to the tourney''s overall success.
"It starts with our coaching staff," Blumberg said. "[Assistant] Coaches [Todd] Kein, [Ray] Burgess, and [Mike] Muntz did a great job. They handled things if I wasn't around, and I have full faith in them to do that. They don't have to ask me. They are free to make decisions and they did. We had a lot of help from our parent volunteers, which was great, and we even had some students that aren't even part of the basketball program that helped out a lot.
"Also, Bob Horvath and the JBO [Joliet Basketball Officials] did a great job officiating the games and keeping things on schedule. And, when you bring in quality teams that run quality programs, that helps out, too. We did not have one technical foul against a coach in the two days. That's the first time I remember that happening. We have had years when we had to escort a coach or two off the premises."
Blumberg also thanked the tournament sponsors.
"As always, a big thanks to the City of Morris,"' he said. "They have been our biggest sponsor for 34 years. Also, Buffalo Wild Wings, Corleone's and R-Place for providing food for our hospitality room and Sun Belt Rentals of Joliet for the floor fans we used to keep the floor dry. All of them helped make this one of the best years for the tournament that I can remember."