For the second time in a little over three weeks, the Morris Redskins defeated the Coal City Coalers in boys’ basketball. After snatching a 56-45 win over the Coalers on Nov. 26 at the Coal City Tournament, the Redskins defeated the visiting Coalers on Tuesday night by a score of 65-58.
Morris got off to a quick start, pushing the tempo and emptying their bench while jumping out to a 17-10 lead over Coal City at the end of the first quarter. Senior forward Ben Ortiz dropped five of his 21 points in the opening stanchion to lead the Redskins as they ran Coal City out of the gym early.
“We knew we wanted to push the ball and run up and down,” Ortiz said. “We thought we were the more fundamental team and we wanted to take advantage of that. Coach (Blumberg) told us in the locker room that’s what we needed to do and it worked out for us.”
In the second quarter, Coal City was able to shave Morris’ advantage to one on multiple occasions but three timely triples by senior guard Jake Hogan and an old-fashioned three-point play from sophomore Austin Patterson gave Morris the 30-23 halftime lead.
Hogan would go on to hit five three-pointers on the night and finished with 16 points while Patterson would end the night with 14 big points of his own. As a team, Morris would go 11 for 23 from beyond the arc.
“It seemed like every time we made a run, they would hit a shot,” Coal City head coach Brad Boresi said. “Credit to their guys for hitting the big shot, but our defense tonight was extremely bad. A lot of the shots they hit were uncontested, which can’t happen if you expect to win a basketball game.”
In the second half, Coal City would lean heavily on the post presence of senior center Jon West and junior forward Nick Peters. The Coalers ran the Hi-Lo with amazing success (hitting 17 of 28 second-half shot attempts) and gave Morris fits defensively.
“You have to give credit to Nick Peters and Jon West. They do a great job of using their bodies and finding each other,” Morris head coach Joe Blumberg said. “We spent 20 minutes in practice last night working on our posts with releasing and recovering, but it has to be more than the post defenders (to stop the Hi-Lo). The guards have to contribute and we need more ball pressure so they can’t see those openings in the paint.”
West poured in 10 of his 14 points in the third quarter while Peters would also score 11 of his 16 points in the second half. Coal City guard Brennen Shetina would also add 13 points on the night.
However, Morris was able to answer West and Peters’ production in the second half by continuing to hit timely shots from the perimeter. It’s been a trend for the Redskins in victories all season, and it’s one that causes Coach Blumberg some serious concern.
“It’s the question that keeps me up every night,” Blumberg joked. “I have Charles Barkley’s ‘Live by the Three, Die by the Three’ running through my head from the NCAA Tournament last year and there’s some truth to it. I still believe in playing fundamental basketball and boxing out and getting the ball to your post players. There’s value in that.
“However, I think we’re pushing a little more (towards being a perimeter team), and as long as they make good decisions and take shots that are in rhythm and floor-balance, that’s okay.”
With the win, the Redskins improved to 4-3 on the season while the Coalers dropped to 3-5 on the year. Both teams will be in action in Plano starting Saturday.