Going back to the last time the Morris and Coal City boys basketball teams played, the Coalers won by a 49-47 final. Though Morris won the season series 2-1 last winter, it was the Coalers who came away with a win in arguably the biggest area basketball game of the year — the regional championship at Herscher.
“It’s still a little disappointing. We’ve talked a lot about the things that could have happened that would have made that a different outcome,” Morris senior guard Sam Allen said. “We do use that as motivation, but this is a summer game and we know there is still a lot to improve on. Summer is about coming together as a team and summer games helps that a lot. We’re always wanting to improve.”
That summer game that Allen referred to was Morris’ matchup with Coal City at the 28th Annual Morris Shootout and it would never had happened if Granite City had not pulled out in the days leading up to the event.
“Granite City had two injuries last weekend in a shootout that required hospital visits. Coach (Steve) Roustio admitted they were young to begin with and they were afraid he wouldn’t be able to bring a competitive varsity team to our event,” Morris coach and shootout coordinator Joe Blumberg said. “The first two teams I called on were Streator and Coal City. I contacted Streator due to our familiarity with Coal City. Streator had another commitment and Coach (Brad) Boresi got back to me very quickly. He admitted they would also be shorthanded but I think he saw the opportunity for between five and seven extra games and took the chance.”
Boresi said that he was glad the Coalers were asked to act as a fill in.
“I got a call from Joe on Monday and he said that one of the teams dropped out and that he was looking for someone to fill in for them. I knew that we were going to be missing some kids, but I thought it was a great opportunity to get five games in before the summer ends,” Boresi said. “He told me our times were going to be 4, 6 and 8 and we knew who we were going to be playing then. That didn’t play any role in making the decision for us to get the games in.”
“Coach Boresi texted us on Monday and wanted to know if we thought that we were going to have enough guys to make it,” Coal City senior Nick Peters said. “He told us the game times, and we knew there were going to be some players that were out, but we wanted to play basketball.”
The first game for the fill-ins, by sheer coincidence, of course was Morris.
“To be honest, if I had the opportunity, I wouldn’t have scheduled us to play them simply because of the number of times we’ve played them last year, this summer and next season,” Blumberg said. “However, I try to keep the schedule as consistent and it was the easier switch.”
The notable absence of senior guard Brennan Shetina did make Wednesday’s game a less than marquee-matchup, just like a summer game played earlier this summer between the two teams.
“We had played them already this summer and we knew it was going to be a tough matchup,” Allen said. “I know they didn’t have Shetina the last time either and I know that hurts them.”
“We played them earlier this summer and we were without Shetina then, too,” Peters said. “We were also missing (Nate) Chapman, I believe. If I remember right, the same result pretty much happened then, too.”
Boresi said that it’s still a good thing when his team gets to play Morris.
“We actually played them here earlier in the summer, but playing in the summer is just not the same as playing during the regular season,” Boresi said. “I think it’s good for the fans, but we’ll be ready to go when we play again in the regular season and possibly the postseason. Still, it’s nice to play Morris. Any time you play them, you know it’s going to be a tough matchup. They are well coached and both teams know coming in that they are going to have to work hard in order to be successful.”
On Wednesday, that mean rotating guys in on and isolating Peters.
“We tried different guys on him. We know that he’s a good player. We knew that we had to rotate different players in on him,” Allen said. “He still played well, I think we were able to cool him down as the game went on.”
“We missed a lot of open looks. We had good looks, the just didn’t fall,” Boresi said. “I think it would have been a much closer game had we converted those opportunities.”
Peters he admits he may have been pressing a bit as Morris put the clamps on him offensively in the second half of what turned out to be a 46-30 win.
“Sometimes guys try to do some things that they are not capable of or guys try to do too much,” he said. “It makes it tough when you are missing guys and they can’t be there.”
Something that surely won’t happen if the two teams were to have a rematch in next-year’s regional finals.
“We still look back at the pictures from that day and of us holding the trophy and it still feels good,” Peters said. “We didn’t play them as good as we could have in the regular season (last winter) so if feels great to come back and show that improvement and beat them with the regional on the line.”
A feat that Blumberg would like not to see repeated.
“We’ve gone through play by play of the last minute of the regional final and it really exposed three weaknesses that we’ve wanted to address this offseason,” Blumberg said. “The number of close games that we’ve had last year allows us to remind them that harping on them about one little thing might be enough to win a regional championship or win any of those close games.”
Coal City has not been in the Morris Shootout field in the past. Considering that and all the buzz the inadvertent matchup created, could we see a rematch at the Morris Shootout again next year?
“If our gate’s a little more and the crowd appreciated it, maybe we’ll blind-draw them into our pool again next year,” Blumberg said with a laugh.