COAL CITY – With eight returning letter winners from a 23-7 girls basketball team, including 2013 Morris Daily Herald Player of the Year Emily Halliday, Coal City is optimistic.
“This group has waited to be seniors,” Coal City coach Brad Schmitt said last week at practice. “They’re here, and I hope they make the most of this year.”
The Lady Coalers’ ability to overcome one (literally) big loss may be the key to them acheiving some lofty goals. Donjeta Shabani, a 2013 MDH All-Area first-teamer, has graduated. Two of the three tallest players on the varsity roster, 5-foot-10-inch Kennady Clayburn and 5-foot-9-inch Mackenzie Bugg, are freshmen.
Senior Britta Spelde, who stands 5-foot-9-inches tall and was a MDH All-Area honorable mention selection, and 5-foot-8-inches tall junior Madyson Bunton are the other forwards on the team. Along with Halliday, guards on the team include All-Area honorable mention picks Brittany Jezik, a senior, and Nicole Borgetti, a junior, along with juniors Rebecca Cash and Carly Pavlis and sophomore Makenna Emerson.
“We do have to play a little faster. We played fast last year, because both our posts were fast,” Halliday said. “[Shabani’s] height, there’s nothing we can replace her with, but I think our posts can hold their own down there. ... Maddie Button has gotten so much stronger this year. She’s gonna be a bigger impact in the post.”
Many of the Lady Coalers were part of the girls volleyball team’s run to a sectional final, which caused them to miss a few days of what would have been basketball practice. Theirs in the latest-starting local girls season, however, as the Beecher Ladycat Fall Classic does not begin until Friday.
“I think these girls put in enough time over the summer that that week [without practice] actually helped them,” Schmitt said. “I think winning in each sport carries over, and we’re not really concerned that they missed the four or five days.”
Schmitt expects traditionally strong teams like Peotone, Lisle and Seneca to challenge the Lady Coalers for supremacy in the Interstate Eight Conference, where they were 9-2 last season. He also expects Plano to be in the mix, and said Coal City hopes to “avenge” past struggles against the Lady Reapers and their post, Clarissa Martinez.