HERSCHER — Moments after Coal City's 49-47 win over Morris in the championship game at the Class 3A Herscher Boys Basketball Regional ended Friday night, Coal City senior center Jon West had trouble describing his winning basket.
"I'm sorry, guys," he told a group of reporters. "I'm still shaking."
West had the Coal City section of the bleachers shaking when he put back a miss by teammate Joe Micetich with 10 seconds left in what had been a 47-47 game. West, who was fouled on the play, missed the resultant free throw, but when time ran out during a scramble for the rebound of an Evan Bjelland miss on the other end, the Coalers were regional champions.
"As soon as (Micetich) shot it, I broke for the hoop and went up strong," West said. "I knew (the putback) was going in. ... I did miss the free throw, but I knew my teammates would pick me up on the other end."
The basket was the final blow in a back-and-forth fourth quarter, which began with the teams tied at 34-34. Five unanswered points by the Coalers' Brennen Shetina started a 10-2 run that put the Coalers ahead 44-36 with 2:41 to play.
Evan Bjelland put back his own miss with 2:20 to play to get the Redskins' started on a comeback. Out of a timeout, Ben Ortiz made a steal and a quick basket to cut the deficit to four, and two free throws by Jake Hogan with 1:52 left made it a 44-42 game. Ortiz then hit a jumper to answer a Nick Peters free throw to halve that deficit with 1:04 to go.
Coal City's Joe Micetich hit the first of two free throws on two trips to the line in a 6-second span to nudge the lead back up to three, but it was erased completely by an Austin Patterson three-pointer on the other end. Peters then missed on the other end, but a Lane Cowherd rebound, followed by a timeout, set up the West heroics.
"We did battle back from down 8 in the fourth quarter, but we got away from what we do at times," Morris coach Joe Blumberg said. "With 17 seconds left, we doubled and gambled, which we didn't need to do. We drew up a play for after the free throw, make or miss, and then we didn't execute what we had talked about. I guess that's an argument that we should have called a timeout, but then they would have been able to set up their defense."
Coal City, now 19-12, will play Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. against Rich East at the Rich South Sectional. Morris, which bows out at 16-12, was led by a 23-point effort from Ortiz.