Morris Herald-News boys basketball capsules

Teams begin play in Thanksgiving tournaments this week

With the boys basketball beginning action in Thanksgiving tournaments this week, here is a look at each team in the Morris Herald-News coverage area.

MORRIS

Last year’s record: 4-7 (4-6 in Interstate Eight)

Key returners: Myles Johnston (Sr., 12.2 ppg, 4.4 apg), Zach Romak (Sr., 6.9 ppg, 4.9 rpg), Henry Hansen (Sr., 3.6 ppg, 3.0 rpg), Aidan Romak (Sr., 2.1 ppg), Cam Hatcher (Sr.), Matt Munsell (Sr.), Grayson Weber (Sr.).

Key newcomers: Ashton Yard (Jr.), Jonah Williams (Jr.), A.J. Zweeres (Soph.), Gage Phillips (Jr.), Luke Brown (Jr.), Jack Amiano (Jr.), Dominic McKim (Sr.).

.Worth noting: Johnston will miss about five weeks due to a lingering injury from football season. He is expected to return after Christmas... Zach Romak was named to the Class 5A All-State football team as a quarterback... Joe Blumberg is entering his 15th season as the Morris coach and has posted a record of 176-207, including three regional championships... ““I thought we were better than our record indicated last year,” Blumberg said. “I think the two quarantine breaks ruined any momentum we had. The last month of the year, we played more games than we practiced, often playing four ball games in a week, including back to backs. It was tough on our guys and we are excited to be able to get back in the gym and have a more normal ratio of practice and game minutes.”

MINOOKA

Last year’s record: 8-5

Key returners: Ricky Hill, Jr. (Sr., 12 ppg, honorable mention All-Southwest Prairie Conference); Trevor Hudak (Sr., 14 ppg, 40% 3-point shooter, All-Southwest Prairie Conference); Darren Anderson (Sr., all-state track athlete); Adrian Manning (Sr., excellent track athlete); Cade Ooms (Sr., 3-sport athlete).

Key newcomers: Nick Andreano (Jr.); Preston Van Pelt (Jr.).

Worth noting: This is Kevin Cain’s fourth year as the Indians’ coach... Hudak excelled as a wide receiver and defensive back for the Minooka football team... “We graduated a few key pieces from last year,” Cain said. “But, we bring back game experience and will be senior-heavy.”

COAL CITY

Last year’s record: 3-6

Key returners: Nolan Berger (Sr., 2.0 ppg), Aiden Hansen (Sr., 1.4 ppg), Colin Hart (Sr., 1.9 ppg), Carter Garrelts (Jr., 1.1 ppg), Cason Headley (Jr., 7.9 ppg), Carson Shepard (Jr., 5.9 ppg).

Key newcomers: Chris Cholico (Jr.), Jim Feeney (So.), Garrett Keeley (Jr.), Nolan Ness (Jr.)

Worth noting: The Coalers lost almost half of their scoring scoring off of last year’s team with the graduation of Kyle Burch (13.1 ppg) and Riley Ponio (9.22 ppg)... 6-foot-5 Carter Garrelts will be expected to play a larger role on this year’s team as he replaces Kyle Burch as the big man in the middle... Seniors Nolan Berger, Aiden Hansen, and Colin Hart will be called upon to play expanded roles this season... Last year’s team was 3-2 before Berger went down with a high ankle sprain... “The team has some talent,” coach Glen Pacek said. “If we can get players to fulfill their roles and compliment one another we can be a formidable team. Team chemistry is vital, as is working hard to continually improve throughout the season.”

SENECA

Last year’s record: 7-5, 7-5 in Tri-Valley Conference.

Key returners: Zach Pfeifer (Sr.), Noah Quigley (Sr.), Given Siegel (Sr.).

Key newcomers: Braden Ellis (Jr.), Paxton Giertz (Fr.), Owen Quigley (Sr.), Lane Provance (So.), Kysen Klinker (So.), Dominic Traina (Jr.), Calvin Maierhofer (Jr.).

Worth noting: Coach Russ Witte is entering his 13th season for the Irish and has amassed a record of 187-157, including three regional titles... The Irish will have size, but it will be young, as Provance stands 6-5 and Klinker is 6-3. Siegel is also 6-3... “Like always, we will be as good as we defend and rebound,” Witte said.

NEWARK

Last season’s record: 9-3 overall, 7-2 Little Ten

Key returners: Austin Tollefson, sr., (G/F); Grandon Mitchell, sr., (F); Mitchell Kruser, sr., (G/F); Tegan Kruser, sr., (G); Zach Carlson, jr., (G); Jake Kruser, jr., (G); Joe Martin, jr., (G/F)

Top newcomer: Cole Reibel, jr., (G/F)

Worth noting: Coach Rick Tollefson has announced this will be his last season leading the Norsemen after 16 years and more than 300 victories, a Class 1A state championship (2011) and a fourth-place finish (2017). “I’m not getting any younger, and I’d like to be in some warmer weather when January comes along,” he said. “I love the kids and what we’ve done here at Newark with all the great memories, fun and accomplishments we’ve experienced over the years. But now it’s time to turn it over to someone else at the end of this season.” … The Norsemen will be limited on the varsity level with only eight athletes, so he may have to dip into the Newark junior varsity level of 15 players being guided by former NHS 1,000-point scoring great Dylan Patrick. … The Norsemen don’t have much size, as not one player on the varsity level is taller than 6-1, so up-tempo play defense and shooting accuracy will be key to their success. … Seniors Austin Tollefson and Mitchell return as the key players to this years mix who both averaged about 10 points a game as juniors. The Kruser brothers along with Carlson, Martin, and Reibel figure to play prominent roles as well.

GARDNER-SOUTH WILMINGTON

Last year’s record: 9-9 overall, 9-1 River Valley Conference (1st place)

Key returners: Garrett Grant (Sr., 3.1 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 1,5 apg)

Key newcomers: Cale Halpin (So.), Bennett Grant (So.), Brody Fatlan (Jr.), Gabe McHugh (Fr.)

Worth noting: Allan Wills is entering his fourth season as the Panthers’ head coach... Garrett Grant is one of three players to return from last season... “We only return three players from our team last season, and only one of them saw significant minutes,” Wills said. “We have a lot of learning to do, but this team will play hard and hopefully improve during the season.”


Rob Oesterle

Rob Oesterle

Rob has been a sports writer for the Morris Herald-News and Joliet Herald-News for more than 20 years. He is currently also writing news for the Morris Herald-News.