PLANO — Morris defeated Forreston on Saturday night as the 50th annual Plano Christmas Classic got underway. The Redskins overcame shooting just 24 percent from beyond the arc and still defeated Cardinals by a score of 57-25.
The Redskins overcame a slow start where they gave Forreston a 5-2 lead before grabbing a 10-7 advantage late in the first quarter when senior forward Ben Ortiz froze the defense and dropped two of his 11 points in the game after driving on a shot fake. Ortiz led Morris in scoring as 10 Redskins got into the score column while 12 of the 'Skins 13 players played at least a quarter’s worth of minutes (eight) on the afternoon.
“When our leading scorer is only 11 and we still win by 30 plus it’s a great sign,” Ortiz said. “We were able to go deep into our bench. We got a lot of bench time and everyone was putting the ball in and not being selfish so it helps a lot.”
Forreston was able to cut the lead to 12-11 when sophomore forward Robert Devries dropped two of his team-high 10 points on a spinning jumper from the elbow to end the first quarter.
After trading buckets with the Cardinals, the Redskins went on an 8-0 run early in the fourth quarter as a three by senior guard Jake Hogan gave Morris a 22-13 lead. Hogan would go on to hit three trifectas on the day and finish with nine points.
Forreston was able to stop the run with a big bucket senior forward Justin Hughes that cut the lead to 22-15 just before the half against ninth-seeded Morris.
However, coming out of the break the Redskins went on a 16-6 run. With the lead well into double-digits, Morris emptied their bench late in the third quarter and was able to extend the lead to 42-21 when Evan Bjelland hit a baseline jumper as time expired.
“With three days off it’s probably not as big from a fatigue standpoint, but I think from a team unity standpoint getting more contributions from other guys gives us more confidence knowing that we have a deeper bench. And it sometimes makes those minutes in practice for the guys that might be reserves pay off a little more,” Morris head coach Joe Blumberg said.
Coming off the bench, junior center Ned Kneller was able to make efficient use of his time, scoring nine points and tallying three rebounds in just eight minutes while sticking home a put-back in the fourth quarter to cap what wound up being a 26-6 run to start the second half.
Junior forward Brock Kukman also stuffed the stat sheet with eight boards, five assists and two points all in the second half as the Redskins rebounded from a poor first half shooting performance (29 percent) to shoot just under 56 percent as a team in the second half. The ‘Skins reserves were also able to hold the Forreston Cardinals to just over 18 percent shooting from the field in the second half, as well.
Austin Patterson, Jason Matteson, Kneller, Ortiz and Hogan were all able to score at least eight points on the night and a diverse Morris offense gave the Redskins a solid opening victory.
“It’s probably gonna hurt us – and I say this jokingly – in terms of All-Tournament teams,” Blumberg said. “But, we don’t care about that. I think if we can get contributions from six, seven, or eight guys it makes us tougher to guard, both on the perimeter and in the lane. I thought we took, for the most part, decent shots and got significant contributions up and down our lineup.”
“It helps to get a good team win like that and also for ourselves to get some good chemistry,” Ortiz added.