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Joe Blumberg is glad his players didn’t listen to the pundits.
The Morris coach happily is watching the Redskins pick up steam as the regular season ends, despite a campaign in which Morris went from being a preseason upper-tier team to just average.
Morris is 15-9 overall and 5-4 in the Northern Illinois Big 12 East, tied for second in the conference with Sycamore.
The Redskins have gone 3-1 in their last four games, with victories over Oak Forest, Rochelle and league leader Kaneland. The Redskins’ only loss in that span was to Streator.
Blumberg said he’s been without his leading scorer and rebounder Ben Ortiz (14.7 points per game, 6.9 rebounds per game) for the past four games. Ortiz has been out with an illness.
“The fact our guys have already reached the 15-win mark and can still potentially claim a share of the conference crown after Friday night’s game (at Yorkville in the regular-season finale) is a testament to the tenacity and resiliency of our players,” Blumberg said.
Sophomores Austin Patterson and Evan Bjelland have stepped into the starting rotation. Patterson is averaging 10.2 points while Bjelland is shooting 44 percent from three-point range.
The season has come full circle. In November, Danny Friend left the basketball team to concentrate on getting ready to play football at Indiana.
“We went from being a conference contender to an afterthought in the ‘experts’ ’ eyes,” Blumberg said. “I think our guys took some offense to that.”
That time of year
With regional action beginning around the state Monday, conference rematches are destined to take place, and teams in the SouthWest Suburban Blue won’t be immune.
Lockport and Joliet Central will play Monday at Lockport in a Class 4A regional play-in game. The two teams met Friday, when the host Porters beat the Steelmen 53-47.
“With (Friday’s) game people said that it didn’t matter and regionals does,” Lockport’s Andrew Gosney said. “We’re going to go out and play our game and hopefully, get the win.”