One game into the 51st annual Plano Christmas Classic, the Coal City boys basketball team was undefeated on the season. It exited the tournament having lost three straight.
The first of those losses was to Morris, which the Coalers had previously beaten at last season’s Class 3A Herscher Regional and again at their own Thanksgiving Tournament this fall. The Coalers’ next scheduled game is against Morris, which they could very well see again later at the Prairie Central Regional.
After the Classic, Coal City center and reigning Morris Daily Herald Player of the Year Nick Peters answered some questions from the MDH.
Q. What did the team learn from Plano?
A. I think we learned that we have to come out and start each game and get off to a fast start. I think pretty much in every one of our games, we had a slow start and found ourselves down 10 or 15 points in the first half, and while we were able to battle back and make those games close, it would have been easier if we had had a better start.
Q. What did happen during the first several games of the season that didn’t during the losing streak?
A. I think the first seven games of the year, or however many there were, we kind of made more shots. I think we were still in all of the games, and really we still got the shots we wanted. They weren’t falling, really. Mainly the losses could be blamed on our defense. Our defense definitely needs to improve, both our man-to-man and zone defenses. We’re scoring enough points to win, but we’re just giving up too many.
Q. Individually it was quite a tournament for you, making the All-Tournament team and reaching 1,000 career points. Did you expect either of those things to happen there?
A. The 1,000 points, I honestly had no idea about it. I had no idea how many I had going into the year or into the tournament or anything like that. So that was really nice how it happened in the last game with my first bucket. With the All-Tournament team, well I wasn’t surprised by it. I wish we had fared better, and then maybe I would have known for sure that I would have gotten it. Going 1-3, even though it was a very tough field playing only in the winners’ side, the individual accolades doesn’t make up for our 1-3 effort.
Q. Would you have believed joining the 1,000-point club possible when your varsity career started?
A. Honestly, I didn’t think about it. I didn’t know it was a thing at the time. I didn’t know it was a high accolade to get. Now that I do, just being a part of it is special to me, that in my four years I was able to reach that landmark. So I guess I didn’t really back then.
Q. How is your game different today, and specifically how have you changed as a scorer, from what it was when you scored your first varsity points?
A. I think playing football has gotten me a lot stronger. I’m able to go through contact better than ever this year. My post game has gotten a lot better. Before, I would settle for a lot of jumpers, where now I can use my post game a lot more – both a face-up post game as well as a back-to-the-basket post game. I can go through a lot more contact, which makes it easier for me to drive to the basket and also to take more shots in close to the basket, and it’s due to me being stronger.
Q. Do you guys have a bigger rival than Morris right now?
A. I guess you really couldn’t say that we do. With the limited amount of games in a season, every game is really a rivalry in itself. You always know the guys you’re playing against, and you really want to come out with a victory. With Morris, we play them so many times and our games have been so close, and then with the tournament implications that we have had the last two years, I guess you could definitely say they’re our biggest rivalry, overall.
Q. You’re still unbeaten at home this year. Is it an advantage that your next four games, along with the conference tournament later this month, will be played in Coal City?
A. Yeah. With our roster, and having a lot of guys that have had a lot of time in our gym, it definitely helps to play at home. We’re very comfortable there. Like you said, our next four are all there, and all of our games but one in January are there, and like you said the conference tournament is also there. We’re hoping that will play into our advantage down the stretch now that we’re done with the first half of the season.
Q. What was going through such an up-and-down senior football season like?
A. It was definitely ingrained in the football players’ heads, and for me now that I’m playing basketball, that no matter what happens, you have to come back to practice and put in the work each week. It has to happen every night in practice, not just on game nights. With how that all played out – going from ‘we might not make it’ to ‘we might make it’ to ‘we won’t make it now’ to ‘we’re in’ – it taught me individually as well as the rest of the guys on the team that no matter what happens, you have to put in your work every day. That’s honestly where a lot of games are won and lost is during preparation each week.