COAL CITY — Through the first six minutes of the Coal City Class 3A Regional, Lady Coalers guard Emily Halliday had 12 points.
It was enough to give the locals a five-point lead against Lincoln-Way West, though it represented all the points in the game to that moment for the locals.
Halliday would go on to finish with a game-high 22 points as the Coalers earned the right to play in their own championship game with a 57-38 win over the Warriors.
"We didn't quite know what to expect from them (Warriors) coming in, but we know if Emily is able to slash and cut that we'd be fine," Coal City coach Brad Schmitt said. "Britta (Spelde) is such a good passer. She found Emily tonight and Emily finished."
It's something that Halliday admits she had been having trouble with lately.
"Lately I've been struggling making my layup," Halliday admitted. "So to get out there and make some layups and threes early was nice."
Coal City led 15-11 at the end of the first quarter and took a 25-17 lead into the locker at halftime.
The good start by Halliday not only got her going, but it also served to calm the team down in. Coal City was playing in it's first Class 3A regional ever.
"We were kind of nervous coming in. We knew they had a tough team," Halliday said. "But I think we pulled it off well."
"I've always told the team that we are much better when we play with the lead instead of chasing," Schmitt said. "We always want to start fast and finish strong and I think we did that tonight."
Part of that was because the Coalers clamped down on the outside shooting game of the Warriors. Then limited their guests to a lot of one-shot opportunities when they penetrated.
"For us, we've lived and died by the three-point field goal all year and obviously they were not going down tonight," Lincoln-Way West coach Ryan White said."Overall our shooting was not good, either and the defense ... we gave up way too many points to expect that we could win."
Lincoln Way-West shot just 24 percent from the field on the night (11-of-45).
"We really weren't giving up transition baskets and I think we forced them into bad shots," Schmitt said. "We also hit the boards and that was a big difference in the game. That and good things happen when you play good defense."
Coal City held a 43-23 rebounding advantage.
"We took away their threes and then after that stopped their penetration," Halliday said.
Offensively, Coal City made 20-of-49 shots for a 41 percent rate.
Coal City is now 23-6 on the season. The Coalers will play Joliet Catholic Academy in the championship game at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday. JCA advanced by beating Providence Catholic 66-48.
"We can only worry about ourselves. If we continue to prepare like we have, things are going to land where they may," Schmitt said of Thursday's matchup with JCA. "It really doesn't matter who we are playing."
"I think it will be a good game but JCA might be a hard game for us to get ready for," Halliday said. "But this was a good warmup game for us."