For the third time this season, the Morris and Coal City basketball teams will be competing on the court. Unlike the last two times when the Redskins defeated the Coalers, much more is on the line when the two meet for the Herscher Class 3A Regional championship on Friday night at 7:30.
"It think it's huge, because of all the teams that have played for Coal City, only seven have won a regional championship," Coal City coach Brad Boresi said. "It a real accomplishment to be in the position we are in now."
Coal City last won a regional championship in 2001 with the others coming in 1999 under Mitch Hamann, 1990 under Pat Halloran, 1981 under John Cullick, 1965 under John Dzuris, 1945 under Coach Pugh and 1937 under Ed Raschke.
It has been made especially nice for Coal City since the program has seen a leaner side to it in the past several seasons.
"Last year and the year before we lost the regional play-in game," Coal City junior Nick Peters said. "It feels good for us to go up a level and to win games. Hopefully we can keep it going."
Coal City and Morris met for the first time this season at the Coal City Thanksgiving Tournament where the Redskins won 55-45. Morris then won again in Morris by a 65-58 count in mid-December.
Morris coach Joe Blumberg said that at this point there is nothing to read into with the two previous wins.
"We go into Friday with a record of 0-0, so our two wins over them means nothing then," he said. "They are a different team than when we saw them last year in 2012."
Coal City is currently 18-12 on the season, this after starting out 5-8 through the Christmas Tournament season. Still, having the two wins in the hip pocket does mean something according to Morris senior forward Ben Ortiz.
"We do have confidence going in and knowing that," Ortiz said. "But we think it's going to be a good game and that it won't be easy.
"We can't take anything for granted just because we beat them twice," Morris sophomore guard Evan Bjelland said. "We know we are going to have to come out and play our best."
According to IHSA.org, Morris has also won seven regional titles in its history. This to go along with district titles in 1919, 1930 and 1931. Morris regional titles came in 1939 under Robert Zimmerman, 1951 under Joe Laughary, 1980 under Moose Roe, 1993 under Keith Laughary, 1995 under Chuck Nelson and twice under Blumberg in 2010 and 2011.
Not to mention owning a string of victories in a row now over Coal City.
"It seems like every time we play them, they bring their best," Boresi said. "They play extremely hard and are well coached. It's going to take a solid effort from all five of our guys.
"It's a situation where we know their stuff and they know our stuff, so I think (Friday) is going to come down to execution."
If the teams stay true to its current rotation, the lineup for Friday for each team should include: Morris — Senior guard Jake Hogan, senior guard Sam Allen, senior guard Jason Matteson, sophomore guard Austin Patterson and senior forward Ben Ortiz; Coal City - Junior guard Brennan Shetina, senior guard Joe Micetich, junior forward Lane Cowherd, senior center Jon West and junior forward Nick Peters.