JAKE BRNCA looks for a pass around a defender during Monday night’s Regional game. The Coalers battled hard over the four quarters, but were unable to close an early gap against Pontiac. Photo by Brent Sumner.
by Brent Sumner Staff writer
The Coal City varsity boys basketball team saw their season come to an end Monday night, falling in the opening round of their 3A Regional.
The Coalers battled hard but wound up losing by five points to Pontiac, 48-43.
"Playing a 3A style of basketball is definitely different than 2A," said CCHS coach Keith Kiper. "Our conference is about half-and-half with 2A and 3A. There is size and speed that we don't see a lot at 2A, and we had to prepare for that and come out with the intensity."
Coal City came out swinging, jumping to an 8-0 lead, but strong perimeter shooting kept the visitors in the game during the first frame.
"We played zone due to their size," said Kiper. "We played zone against them last time, and were pretty successful. Tonight, they were shooting the lights out though, and at one point were 5-for-6 from three. When they shoot like that, you have to get back out on them."
The three-point shooting gave Pontiac the lead by the end of the first quarter, 14-12, as they continued to outpace the Coalers in the second quarter, heading into half-time with the sustained lead, 25-19.
Christian Johnson's 19-point performance kept Coal City in the game.
Unfortunately, Pontiac recorded 11 points in the third to Coal City's nine, as the gap grew wider, 36-27.
The Coalers attempted to mount a comeback in the fourth quarter, but with time dwindling, Coal City was forced to commit fouls to get possession.
Pontiac was just too consistent from the charity stripe.
Jake Brnca finished with eight points, while Blake Harseim added six, going 6-for-6 from the free-throw line.
Zack Nolan added five, Kaleb Spreitzer chipped in with four, and Ryan Chapman rounded out the effort with one point.
With the season coming to an end, Kiper took the time after the game to thank his seniors, as well as his returning players.
"I just tell my seniors thank you," he said. "They work their butts off all year, and it's a long season that they have to play through. They work hard for it, it is just a thank you to them for all the effort."
The Coalers finish with a record of 8-20 (4-7 conference). While on paper the record doesn't look that great, Coal City was within striking distance during most of their games, an attribute that shows that the program is on the upswing.
"For the season, I felt like we were right there," Kiper added. "Down five with JCA, down two with Plano, down four with Sandwich. Streator, we played them so tight that we held their best players to four points. We are right there to be able to get some good wins against some really good teams."
Kiper looks forward to what the future has in store for his program. While Coal City will be losing seven seniors this year, they will be bringing forth another group of young, skilled players. They will also return seven juniors to the varsity line-up next year.
"Our sophomore team was very successful this year at the top of the conference, and hopefully they will continue to have that success as they come up next year," Kiper said. "We have a lot of team speed coming back next year. We will have to utilize that and try to be quick, because we have to be quick playing 3A. We don't have the size, so we have to be quick."
Coal City 35
The Coalers were unable to get past the Bulldogs on Friday.
Coal City held the game close as the offense was supported by Johnnson, who finished the night with 17 points. He went 6-for-12 from inside, and also went perfect from the free-throw line (5-for-5).
Unfortunately, the Coalers just couldn't make vital baskets down the stretch, leading to the loss.
"We played a good Streator team that has some talented players," Kiper said. "I feel we gave them everything they could handle, and we could not make a shot. We went 1-for-19 from threes and 9-for-32 from two's. We were still within two in the fourth."
Coal City attempted to close the gap in the fourth, pulling within one possession, but Streator wound up fighting back, leading to the seven-point loss.
Nolan added seven points on the night, followed by Harseim with six and Brnca with three.
Spreitzer and Sean Micetich both added one point to the offense.