HERSCHER — Down by seven points at the onset of the third quarter, the Coalers knew something had to change or their season was over.
Change it did.
Coal City went on a 12-0 run to close the third quarter against Pontiac, hung on against an Indians charge in the fourth quarter and pressed on after a 50-42 win in the semifinal round.
“We changed some things up at halftime with matchups. We were not talking enough,” Coal City coach Brad Boresi said. “The guys did a great job of being patient on offense in the second half.”
Coal City got 13 of Nick Peters’ 17 points in the second half, in addition to 10 of Lane Cowherd’s points. Brennan Shetina ended the game with 12.
“Last game we relied a lot on Shetina and Peters, but tonight we spread the ball around a little more,” Cowherd said.
In addition to that, Coal City owned the boards in the second half, out-rebounding Pontiac 17-5 over the last 16 minutes, which also played a role.
“In the second half, we made a conscious effort to get the ball inside. That seemed to open things up in the second half,” Peters said. “Coach wanted us to attack more.”
That aggressiveness paid off in more ways than one.
“They hurt us on the boards,” Pontiac coach Brandon Martin said. “Their post players did a good job in the second half.”
“Our big guys did a good job of coming over and staying on the floor,” Boresi said. “They did a nice job os sliding their feet. We felt coming in that we could dominate on the boards, but we did not. In the second half, though, Peters really cleared the boards.”
The game was fairly even through the first quarter with the Coalers leading 10-8 following the first eight minutes. However, Pontiac found itself ahead 23-18 by intermission thanks to a 10-point quarter by Neil Lambert. Coal City also had just three field goals in the frame.
As indicated, however, after giving up a pair of hoops to Logan Gschwendter, Coal City embarked on a 12-0 run that gave the locals a 32-29 lead with :41 before the end of the third.
Peters started the run with a basket and a couple of trips down the floor later, Cowherd scored off an assist by Joe Micetich. Cowherd then made two free throws to get Coal City within 27-24 at 3:37. Peters scored again at 3:00 and Micetich added two free throws at 2:11 to give Coal City the lead back once again. Peters gave the Coalers a three-point lead at 1:34 and Shetina bucketed at :41 before the run was stopped on a basket by William Meiner. Coal City got to its 34-29 lead after three on a putback basket by Peters.
Boresi needed a timeout at 5:08 of the fourth with his team ahead 38-36 before Lambert tied the game again at 38. Coal City answered that with a hoop and a free throw by Peters and a field goal by Shetina at 1:20.
Pontiac got within 44-40 with a little more than a minute left, but the Coalers then pulled away for the win.
“Last year and the year before we lost the regional play-in game,” Cowherd said. “So this feels good. For us to go up a level and win games. Hopefully we can keep it rolling.”