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Johnson: Coalers stay balanced in winning first 21 games

Published: Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT

BRAIDWOOD – In a season of nothing but good weeks, this one may have been the best to date for the Coal City girls basketball team.

Coal City has now played 21 games, and it has won every one of them. A 61-30 win over Manteno last Saturday, a 42-28 defeat against Seneca on Monday and a 60-22 clinic against Peotone on Thursday gave the Coalers their third championship of the season at the Interstate Eight Conference Tournament, hosted by Reed-Custer.

Coach Brad Schmitt expected his team to be good going into this year. I expected them to be good. Everyone who follows girls basketball in this area probably expected them to be good. Having high expectations and actually delivering 21 straight wins are two different things, though. I asked Schmitt how they’ve done it.

“Staying focused. Staying competitive. Staying hungry. Staying disciplined,” Schmitt said. “All of those things that you keep trying to bark at teams of the past, this group has absolutely just stayed hungry. I don’t know what they’re gonna be capable of doing, but right now, what they’ve done so far has just played, stayed together. It was an impressive win tonight. Hopefully we kind of build on that and finish up the season strong.”

Emily Halliday, who with teammates Britta Spelde and Nicole Borgetti was selected for the All-Tournament team afterward, agreed that the Lady Coalers reached a new level in the Peotone game, and that their collective unselfishness was on full display.

“I think we played basically our best game. Shooting-wise, we were just on fire. We played great defense,” Halliday said. “I think we just trust each other. We know each other’s strengths. We can score when we want. We know who can shoot, we know who can drive.”

Entering the tournament, Halliday was averaging 12.8 points per game, with Spelde at 10.8 and Borgetti at 8.3. I asked Schmitt if the Coalers’ balance, coming off a season during which Halliday averaged 13.6 points and was the Morris Daily Herald Player of the Year, has surprised him at all.

“When we had the summer stuff, people were doing a little bit more that what I had expected,” Schmitt said, “but coming into the season, I expected exactly what we have been doing. The team effort, the chemistry’s been great, share the wealth, unselfishness and we’ve really got that under control right now.”

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