WILMINGTON — Coal City made a higher percentage of its free throws Monday than Plano, but the Coalers went cold — and the Reapers got hot — late.
Misses on the front end of two 1-and-1s inside of the last 2:43 cost the Lady Coalers some golden chances to overtake Plano in what ended up a 45-41 Lady Reapers win in Interstate Eight Conference Tournament semifinal action at Wilmington. Meanwhile, the Lady Reapers, who went 17-for-29 from the line (58 percent) for the game to Coal City's 9-for-15 (60 percent), converted 6-of-8 in the final 3:00.
The loss was the Lady Coalers fourth straight to Plano by four points or fewer in the past two seasons. They need a win Thursday over Peotone to avoid more repeating history, as a loss would leave them fourth in the tournament for a second straight year.
"We didn't get many key stops, and we didn't hit our free throws," Coal City coach Brad Schmitt said. "We didn't do what we need to do to pull out in a win in a close game like this one, and Plano did."
Coal City's final lead came with 3:12 to play when Britta Spelde found Carly Pavlis for an open layup to make it 40-39. Twelve seconds later, Tachae Miles made two foul shots to restore the lead to the Lady Reapers.
After failed possessions by both teams, the Lady Coalers got a second-chance opportunity through a Donjeta Shabani offensive rebound, but a missed free throw in the bonus cost them the chance to get even. Plano then controlled the ball for over a minute before turning it over, but the Lady Coalers again missed the first of a 1-and-1.
Neither team scored again until Miles made the first of two free throws with 53 seconds left. Coal City's next possession resulted in Emily Halliday being fouled with 23 seconds showing and making the second of two attempts for a 42-41 game. But Miles converted both of her tries after being fouled, and the Lady Coalers never got a shot off on the other end before turning it over. A Temirra Ellis free throw with 2.9 seconds left clinched the win for Plano.
"Our point guard, Brittany Jezik, fouled out (with 5:54 to play), and that kind of changed the way we had to play in the fourth quarter," Halliday said. "But we could have had it go differently if we had made more of our free throws."
The Lady Coalers started 0-for-12 from the field as Plano built an 11-6 lead in the first quarter, and they made just two field goals during the third quarter, when they were outscored 13-7. A 6-for-8 showing in the second quarter was needed for the Lady Coalers to shoot 29.5 percent (13-of-44) for the game. Part of the reason for that was the presence of Plano center Clarisa Martinez, who blocked six shots.
"We have the three-point shooters to (score in spite of Martinez). Some nights their shots are going to be on, and some nights they're not," Halliday said after Coal City went 2-for-8 from beyond the arc, with Nicole Borgetti getting both makes.
Coal City and Peotone will play in the third-place game Thursday at 5:30 p.m. Coal City won the first game between the teams on Nov. 19, 42-38.
"I told the girls that no matter what happened tonight, we would have one of two tough teams waiting for us," Schmitt said, referring to Peotone and Lisle. "We definitely want to come out of here with a win, especially with the end of our regular season and the state series coming up fast."
Coal City 33,
Donjeta Shabani scored 14 points to lead Coal City Saturday in the quarterfinals. Brittany Jezik added six steals and three assists as the Lady Coalers won despite being outscored 12-4 in the fourth quarter.