MORRIS — The Morris boys basketball team showed flashes of strong play Wednesday on the first day of the 34th Annual Morris Boys Shootout.
Unfortunately for the Redskins, those flashes were a bit too few and far between to result in a victory, but coach Joe Blumberg remained optimistic.
"We really just installed the 1-2-2 zone we were using a couple weeks ago," Blumberg said. "The kids are excited about it and they want to play it, so that's encouraging. We still need to work on closing things out on the wings, but that will come."
Morris began the day against Normal Community and kept things close in the early going, trailing just 21-17 at halftime. Normal took a 30-20 lead six minutes into the second half, but Morris tightened it to 32-25 on a basket by Cody Bledsoe and got to within 36-28 on a three-pointer by Andrew Hipes before Normal stretched the lead to 41-28. Barry Amiano hit a three-pointer to make it 41-31 with 6:08 to play and a three by Jack Walker made it 44-34 at the 2:29 mark. Normal hit a three-pointer late in the game to provide the final score of 47-34.
"I thought we played pretty well in the first game," Blumberg said. "They hurt us with some three-pointers from the wing, which we had trouble closing out with the zone. That will get better, I promise you."
The Redskins fell behind Oswego early in the second game as the Panthers opened on a 12-2 run and Morris could not recover. The Panthers defeated the Redskins, 58-36.
In the third game of the day, Morris came out strong and held an 18-14 lead at halftime against South Elgin. Collin Cummings was instrumental in building that lead, collecting seven of the 18 points, while Amiano scored five and Bledsoe four.
Points were much harder to come by for the Redskins in the second half, as South Elgin outscored Morris 23-4 in the second half to take the 37-22 victory.
Even with the 0-3 record, Blumberg, whose team finished 10-19 a year ago, was encouraged by the way the Redskins played.
"We had some good flashes," Blumberg said. "But, we weren't consistent enough. Summer is the time to work on those things, and I thought we did a good job.
"Collin Cummings stood out all day as a two-way threat. He was able to hit some threes as well as take the ball to the basket and either score or get fouled. Nathan Lobb was another guy who looked good. He didn't play last yar as a junior, but he has some raw talent and works hard underneath to get rebounds, so he will just get better the more he plays.
"We know Jack Walker can shoot, but we need to find ways to get him the ball and he needs to find ways to get open so we can get it to him. I was happy with [junior] Nathan Jepson. He was playing out of position quite a bit when he was in there today. Normally, our backup point guard is Jace Pruim, but he wasn't available today and Nathan had to handle the ball a little more than he is used to. But, Nathan always works hard and has a motor that doesn't stop when he's on defense.
"We'll keep working on things the rest of the summer, but we feel pretty good about where we are at right now."
Morris will play in the Maroon Bracket on Thursday, tipping off with a game at 9 a.m. and then playing at 11 a.m., with the possibility of games at 1 and 3 p.m.