MORRIS — For the 34th straight year, all eyes in the high school basketball world will be on Morris this Wednesday and Thursday, as the Morris Boys Shootout tops off Wednesday morning at 9 a.m.
The 2019 edition of the Morris Shootout will bring 32 teams from around the state to compete in a two-day, competitive basketball tournament. Day 1, Wednesday, June 26, consists of pool play (play-sit-play-sit-play) format (3 games). On Day 2, Thursday, June 27, the No.1 1 and 2 seeds from each pool will compete in the 16-team bracketed Gold Tournament. The No. 3 and 4 seeds from each pool will compete in the 16-team Maroon Tournament. Each team is guaranteed five games over two days, with those competing in championships playing a total of seven.
"The format produces an overall tournament champion, and also provides the opportunity for competitive basketball games throughout," Morris head coach and tournament director Joe Blumberg said.
Bolingbrook will try to become just the second team to win the event three years in a row. If they pull it off, the Raiders will join the 1991-93 Chicago King program as the shootout's only three-peaters.
It won't be easy, as the field is one of the strongest in recent memory, including two-time defending Class 4A state champion Belleville West. In all, eight teams that reached at least the Sweet 16 in their respective classes last season will be on hand, as well as three other regional champions.
"I feel very good about the field," Blumberg said. "I was a little worried when the NCAA opened up two weekends when coaches can see players and they bookend our tournament. Some high school coaches didn't want their coaches going to a live event, then our mid-week event, tnen another live event, so we lost some teams."
Blumberg noted that the teams that decided not to come this year are Deerfield, Moline, Waubonsie Valley, Alton and O'Fallon.
"But, we did get some high-quality replacements," he continued. "We are very happy to have very strong 3A programs like Bogan, Normal U-High, and Peoria Notre Dame to come in, plus Belleville West is coming again. It's not often you can get a two-time defending Class 4A champion. I am also excited to have Collinsville in our tournament, because that is my dad's alma mater and he played under the legendary coach Virgil Fletcher. Centralia and Collinsville are the two winningest programs in IHSA history, so to have one of them coming here is a thrill."
The tournament will feature a game in the main gym and three in the fieldhouse starting every hour from 9 a.m. until 8 p.m. The 32 teams are spread out over eight four-team pools, and the teams will play each team in their pool once in order to determine pool order for bracket play.
The pools are: Pool A - Bolingbrook, Burlington Central, Minooka, and Oak Forest; Pool B - Morris, Normal, Oswego, and South Elgin; Pool C - Bradley-Bourbonnais, Loyola Academy, Peoria Notre Dame, and Plainfield Central; Pool D - Galesburg, Kankakee, Lake Park, and Ottawa; Pool E - Bloomington Central Catholic, Joliet Central, Lake Zurich, and Riverside-Brookfield; Pool F - Bogan, Joliet West, Morton, and Normal U-High; Pool G - Belleville West, Lockport, Neuqua Valley, and Streator; Pool H - Collinsville, Plainfield North, Washington, and West Aurora.
"We went back to the two 16-team trackets on the second day," Blumberg said. "We split the third and fourth seeds into their own brackets last year, but that caused some back-to-back games. The coaches preferred to have some down time on that second day, and we agree with that.
"We feel like it's going to be another great tournament. Our numbers in our program are up, so we should have plenty of kids to help work the scoreboards and the behind the scene stuff. I've even had some former players offer to come in and help out, which is nice to see. We just want to have a strong field and create the compeitive games and hospitality that our shootout is known for."