'Pick your poison': How 4 stars bring balance to Metamora boys basketball
MORTON — Not one, not two, not three, but four offensive threats are making Metamora into a pretty dangerous team.
The Redbirds showed their balance in Friday’s 62-42 boys basketball win over Mid-Illini Conference host Morton. Those four players — Drew Tucker (19 points), Zack Schroeder (13 points, five rebounds), Tyson Swanson (11 points, four rebounds) and Ethan Kizer (10 points, six rebounds, three assists) — combined to score all but nine points as Metamora shot 58.1 percent (25-for-43) and committed just three turnovers.
“We’ve got so many weapons on offense,” Schroeder said. “We can have an 11-pass possession where everybody gets a paint touch and we can kick it out and have a good look, but we don’t want to take the good look, we want a great look.
“So, we can keep swinging the ball until somebody has the best opportunity to score and that’s what we try and get every possession.”
Manual-Central rivalry:8 memorable Manual-Peoria High boys basketball games over the last 20 years
Metamora (6-3, 5-0) now takes a two-game lead in the league standings with games against Pekin and rival Washington set to wrap up the first-half M-I slate. However, Metamora’s schedule doesn’t slow down with the holidays approaching.
A game against El Paso-Gridley on Saturday, plus visits next week from Normal U-High and Bloomington are ahead of an always difficult State Farm Holiday Classic field.
“We’re not dodging anybody,” said Metamora coach Danny Grieves, whose team played four games at the Kevin Brown Memorial Tournament of Champions to open the season. “I’ll take my schedule against anybody in the state.”
Playing those tough teams has only helped Metamora gain confidence. But the Morton win was the first time since the third quarter of Metamora’s season opener that the Redbirds were at full strength.
Schroeder suffered a concussion in that first game, forcing him out until last Friday’s game against Limestone. Kizer had been sidelined with pneumonia the last two weeks.
In turn, Swanson knew he had to pick up his offensive output with many of the important pieces missing. The 6-foot-2 junior guard scored 21 points and grabbed eight rebounds against Canton, then dropped 20 points with seven rebounds against Limestone.
“I had to step it up a little bit,” Swanson said of increasing his role. “I’m definitely feeling a lot more confident this year than I was last year.”
This type of production comes as zero surprise to Grieves.
“I said going into the season,” the 11-season coach said, “after watching (Swanson) in the offseason and in the summer, ‘He’s going to be our top scorer’, and he’s done just that.”
With Metamora finally having Schroeder back on the floor, the three-year captain brings a lot to the game as well as to his teammates. Grieves said Schroeder’s game against Morton was his "best game in a long time."
The 6-foot-3 senior guard shot 50 percent from the field and found Kizer on a sweet alley-oop dunk in the fourth quarter.
“That guy’s our leader,” Grieves said. “It was nice to watch him finally get healthy and back in shape.”
And then there’s Kizer. The 6-foot-6 high-flying junior with the long blonde locks and recently dubbed "Hair Jordan" on Twitter, demands attention from opposing defenses.
Double-teams and triple-teams have resulted in Kizer, who holds scholarship offers from Bradley, Illinois State, Eastern Illinois, Southeast Missouri State and Illinois-Chicago, becoming a better passer.
“I’ve been working on seeing the floor,” he said, “so I can get guys open and get more assists. Since I had a big freshman and sophomore year, everybody is drawn to me.
“It just opens up other guys and they have breakout nights. It’s pretty nice.”
Added Grieves, “Anytime he’s in the game, he’s a magnet. Everybody goes to him and everybody else gets to look better because of it.”
Tucker maybe the hidden gem of the quartet.
His 19 points versus Morton came on a variety of moves to the basket, finishing through contact and even stepping back to knock down a 3-pointer. Grieves says Tucker has all the tools — handling the ball, getting to the basket, creating his own shot as well as catching and shooting.
“Any of them on a given night can go for 25 or 30 (points),” Grieves said, “and so it’s like, ‘Pick your poison’, who are you not going to guard with your best player? That kind of stuff makes me a much better coach.”
Adam Duvall is a Journal Star sports reporter. Email him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @AdamDuvall.