COAL CITY — The last time the Morris and Coal City boys basketball teams played, Coal City picked up a 53-33 win.
That, however, was during the Coal City Thanksgiving Tournament, and the Redskins were playing without seven players who were members of the football team, which was practicing for the state championship game that week.
One of the players missing from the first game was Tyler Spiezio, and the 6-foot-5 senior made his presence felt Tuesday by scoring 30 points in leading the Redskins to their first win of the year, 48-41.
"We are not a very big team," Coal City coach Keith Kiper said. "We have a difficult time dealing with a player that is as big and as skilled as Spiezio."
The Coalers (5-3) were able to to be in control of the first half. Each team scored on its first possession, with Coal City's Zach Sandeno and Morris' Jacob Overbeck each hitting a three-pointer. Austin Pullara of Coal CIty and Chatten Dryfhout of Morris then traded baskets before Coal City went on a 7-0 spurt on a three-pointer by Sean Micetich (11 points) and baskets by Payton Hutchings (14 points) and Austin Pullara (9 points). Spiezio ended the run by draining a three-pointer and had two more baskets before the end of the quarter as the Coalers took a 16-12 lead at the first break.
"That three-pointer early by Overbeck was huge for his confidence," Morris coach Joe Blumberg said. "It was nice to see him hit that."
Coal City grabbed its biggest lead of the game, 23-14, midway through the second quarter on a three-point play by Hutchings. Morris scored the next two baskets on a layup by Overbeck and a basket by Spiezio to cut the lead to 23-18, but Coal City took a 26-19 lead into halftime.
Hutchings opened the second half with a pair of free throws to put Coal City ahead 28-19 before Morris and Spiezio took over. Spiezio, who also had nine rebounds, scored on a putback and a basket down low before Payton Voitik hit a three-pointer to pull the Redskins (1-7) to within 28-26. Spiezio then hit a three-pointer with 2:30 left to give Morris its first lead at 29-28. He then converted an old-fashioned three-point play for a 32-28 lead.
"Tyler is averaging about 20 [points] and 10 [rebounds], and he's the first guy mentioned in any team's scouting report," Blumberg said. "There were times in the second half that we were using him as a decoy, but we are so used to getting him the ball that we forced it a few times.
"His footwork and patience in the lane have improved tremendously and he had a great game."
Micetich then hit a pair of free throws for Coal City before Hutchings made a three-pointer, the Coalers' only field goal of the period, to give his team a 33-32 lead entering the fourth quarter.
"We need to be more consistent," Kiper said. "We haven't had a game where we shot well the entire game. We have streaks. Tonight, we had 16 points in the first quarter, but then had 15 the entire second half. We only had one field goal in the third quarter.
"We had 13 steals. It's hard to imagine losing a game when you get 13 steals. But, we didn't take advantage of a lot of those possessions."
Spiezio scored in the lane 15 seconds into the fourth quarter and Morris never trailed again. Morris took a 40-36 lead, but Coal City tied it on back-to-back baskets by Pullara and Hutchings. Dryfhout hit both ends of a one-and-one with 2:35 to play to give the Redskins the lead for good. In the fourth quarter, Morris went 11 of 18 from the free throw line to help preserve the lead.
"We didn't have any empty trips to the line," Blumberg said. "That helped keep the lead at two possessions. That was big, because we haven't been able to work on late-game situations very often.
"It's been a rough five weeks, and we still aren't completely in shape, but I am proud of the guys to come on the road and get that monkey off their back against a good Coal City team."