Live long enough and you still won’t have seen it all.
I’m fairly true that is a certainty – especially when it comes to the world of high school sports. Although I have spent the better part of the past 30 years going to and covering sporting events, every now and again a game or a match or bout will have something so wholly unique about it that it bears mentioning.
That happened Friday night when I covered the Coal City at Reed-Custer boys basketball game. Though it’s true that I have seen this natural rivalry before – things are bound to be intense when the Coalers and Comets meet in just about every sport – the building seemed especially electric in Braidwood that night.
There were hard fouls, blocked shots, full court presses, a dunk and a tip-in at the buzzer to end the third quarter, but I’ve seen all of that. What I had never seen before was seemingly mild-mannered Coal City coach Brad Boresi get assessed a technical foul right at the start of the second quarter.
“Here’s the thing, I’m not much of an aggressive person when it comes to officials. Unfortunately, because he was wrong, he took it out on me,” Boresi told me after his team had lost a 78-68 decision to the Comets. “I did not swear at him and I did not raise my voice. Not one time. But since he made a mistake he felt obligated to ring me up with a technical foul.”
At that Boresi ended our interview and walked off with his team to the bus, which was probably good because you could almost see a warranted swear word forming on his lips when he left.
It was that kind of intensity Friday night.
Coming out on the winning side of the battle was R-C coach Mark Porter. He said his team’s style of play lends itself to making for an intense environment all by itself.
“Lets just say this; when we went to this style last year and stuff like this is what we were picturing last year. Being able to disrupt teams and cause turnovers,” he said. “That’s a big part of what we are trying to do defensively. We’re pressuring the ball like crazy and playing the passing lanes. We want to guard the basketball and we don’t want to be giving up layups, but it happens sometimes.
“The other team is going to score points, but we are going to try and push it and shoot 3s and try to cause mass chaos. When that happens, sometimes things will get out of hand a little bit. Emotions, especially.”
It was nothing that Coal City didn’t know was coming.
“Ultimately we didn’t handle their pressure. We didn’t execute the game plan coming in,” Boresi said. “A couple of parts of the game got out of sorts and with that, the kids kind of lost focus for a little bit. Hopefully, we’ll see them again at the conference tournament at our place, we’ll make improvements and we’ll have a different result.”
Coal City turned the ball over 32 times in the contest – 11 times in the fourth quarter after Coal City post player Nick Peters fouled out with 6:28 left in the game, and with R-C leading just 62-57.
“It seemed like every time we’d make a little run, we’d have a defensive lapse or a mental breakdown which would allow them to make a big shot,” Boresi said. “Overall, the fourth quarter we had a couple of unfortunate fouls on Nick and he had to exit the game, but that’s when we have to have other guys step in. But when you take Nick off the floor, that takes away an extra ball handler and tall body, so it’s like taking two guys off the floor.”
At that point, it was an obvious opportunity for Porter’s Comets.
“You know, Nick Peters and Brennen Shetina are probably two of the best kids in the entire conference,” Porter said. “We didn’t have a lot of answers for those two kids. When Nick fouled out, we knew that was something we were going to try and exploit, and we also wanted to deny Brennen the ball.”
Coal City’s horrendous free throw shooting (39 percent) and the depth of R-C also ultimately made the difference in the game.
“Tonight we actually played 14 different kids. That’s one of the things we’re trying to do,” Porter said. “It doesn’t always work out the way because we have a tendency to foul too much. When you do that, it slows the pace down by sending the other team to the free throw line. When you let the other team shoot free throws, it kills the pace of the game and gives them an opportunity to rest and that’s not what we want to do.”
Eleven of those 14 players scored for the Comets with Mason Dransfeldt (15), Brent Headrick (15) and Logan Zavala (13) scoring in double digits. Lane Cowherd led Coal City with 28.
“That’s how we want the kids to play all of the time. We’ve only played four games at home out of 17 we’ve played. We’re fortunate to be 4-0 at home,” Porter said. “It was one of the goals that the kids made at the beginning of the year – to be undefeated at home and they still have that opportunity.”