RICHTON PARK — For just over 10 minutes of game time, Coal City looked ready to extend their first run in the Class 3A Boys Basketball State Series even further.
For the remainder of the game, the Coalers looked like a team that had been bumped up a class and was playing in its first sectional since 2001.
Coal City lost 75-47 to Rich East at the 3A Rich South Sectional Wednesday night, but at one point, the Coalers led 25-14. A basket by Rich East's Ronald Lawton at the 5:23 mark of the second quarter served as the tipping point, as it ignited a 21-6 run with which the Rockets closed the first half. They then outscored the Coalers 28-5 during the third quarter and the rout was on.
"One of the things we wanted our guys to do, if it got to the point where we were running up and down the floor, was to be patient and do what they could to slow the game down," Coal City coach Brad Boresi said after his team finished the game with 38 turnovers. "We didn't do a very good job of that."
Rich East built an early 6-3 lead before the Coalers closed the first quarter on a 16-8 run. Junior guard Brennen Shetina made two three-pointers during the quarter and finished it with eight points, and the Coalers went 8-for-11 from the field. They then got a basket from senior Jon West and two from junior Lane Cowherd early in the second as their lead swelled to double digits.
"They came ready to play," Rich East coach George Leonard said of the Coalers. "Some of the credit needs to go to them for their start. But we didn't pressure as well during that opening eight to 10 minutes as I felt we should."
A Shetina putback basket with 4:26 left in the second was the last from the Coalers until junior post Nick Peters scored on another putback with just 9 seconds remaining in the half. Between those baskets, the Rockets had exploded for 15 points.
Nine more unanswered Rich East points began the second half until Shetina went coast to coast for a layup with 5:18 left in the third quarter. Coal City senior Joe Micetich hit a three a minute later, but the Rockets responded with 17 straight points to close the quarter and led 63-34 when it ended.
"We came out ready to play right from the beginning," Shetina said. "Then it seemed like we had a couple of turnovers in a row and it started getting away from us from there. ... Their pressure is tough, but at times, I felt we played into them. We weren't doing the little things well enough to give ourselves a chance."
Leonard got nine players into the game before the fourth quarter, whereas Boresi rode his five starters — Cowherd, Micetich, Peters, Shetina and West — until the 3:00 mark of the second quarter, when senior Chris Jenke relieved West. Coal City's seventh man did not enter until well into the fourth quarter.
"I do think depth made a difference," Leonard said. "They really only use six guys, and playing with six guys in this style of game, that's tough."
Shetina's 13 points and four steals were Coal City highs. Micetich scored 13 points and added four rebounds and two assists. Peters just missed a double-double with nine points and 10 rebounds. He also blocked five shots.
The 19 wins the Coalers finished with this season are their most since the 2003-04 season, when they went 19-7.
"We only won three games my sophomore year and seven my junior year," Micetich said. "Winning 19 and a regional title is like winning state in Coal City. Especially with us being bumped up in class by only like, I think, two people. ... It was a great season. This is just an unfortunate ending to it."