PLANO — After playing as many as five games in the past week, including four games in four days after the Christmas break, the boys basketball teams for Coal City, Morris and Seneca are all in rehab mode as they prepare for the rest of the regular season.
However, for Ben Ortiz of Morris and Nick Peters of Coal City, the wear and tear of the Plano Christmas Classic is made a little sweeter with news of their selection to the prestigious All-Tournament team.
Coal City would finish 12th after a loss in the medal round to Plano, while Morris would finish seventh after a victory over Newark. Even though both teams finished slightly short of their goals, getting Ortiz and Peters onto the 18-man all-tourney team was an accomplishment.
Peters, a 6-6 junior center, led the Coalers in scoring with 13.2 points per game over Coal City’s 2-3 run. He would also lead the team in steals and finished second in rebounding and assists to point guard Brennen Shetina. Peters would also lead the entire tournament in blocked shots with 18, including six in an opening round 42-40 win over seeded Rockford Christan.
“I’d have to say my favorite moment of the tournament was the first-round win over Rockford Christian. They were a higher seed than us and a lot of people thought we’d wind up with a first-round loss,” Peters said. “With our defense, whether we’re running man or zone, my job is to help. So I might leave and try to go block a shot, and then our guys are rotating to go pick up my guy. It really is a team effort.”
After his stunning defensive performance against the Royal Lions, Peters had another big game against Indian Creek on Thursday. Coal City’s man in the middle had 21 points to go along with eight rebounds, five blocks, three steals and two assists.
“I think (being named to the All-Tournament team) can give me a little bit more confidence,” Peters said. “It lets me know that I was able to play my game and play it pretty well in Plano.”
Similarly, Ortiz led the Redskins in scoring, averaging 13.6 points per game as the Redskins went 3-2 for the tournament. The Redskins senior forward/center also led the entire tournament in total rebounds with 43.
In addition, Ortiz would go on to lead the team in blocks with two and tie for the team lead in assists with 10.
“It’s a good feeling being recognized like that,” Ortiz said on Saturday night at the All-Tournament announcement. “Obviously we wish we could have done better as a team. We lost some games by a couple points, but did the best we could.”
Ortiz played his best game the day after Christmas against the eighth-seeded Indian Creek Timberwolves in winner’s bracket action, when he would pour in 24 points to go along with 14 rebounds, a pair of blocked shots and a pair of steals. The Redskins would go on to drop their next two matchups, and after a rough start from Ortiz, Newark had them on the ropes in the seventh-place game as well.
However, Ortiz picked up some steam late in the game with the Redskins trailing. After starting 2-for-10, he would knock down a pair of buckets to give the Redskins the lead, and then he would also hit a pair of free throws to help cement the lead. Ortiz would finish with only 10 points on the night, but those six big points late were critical to the Redskins.
“It seems to me like I always get a slow start. Then in the fourth quarter it gets easier for me to shoot the ball. I guess I just don’t think about it, but tonight really boosted my confidence,” Ortiz said.
After finishing in sixth-place with a loss to Hinckley-Big Rock, Seneca was shut out of the All-Tournament team. Ottawa’s John Carroll would go on to win MVP honors after leading the Pirates to a first-place finish after being seeded tenth. Carroll’s performance was capped by a big 25-point performance in the championship game against Belvidere.