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Balance helps Coalers knock off No. 1 Irish in I-8 semis

COAL CITY – With game highs of 16 points and 12 rebounds, Nick Peters was hardly quiet Wednesday, but contributions from other starters helped get Coal City past Seneca, 46-36.

All five starters did something of note to allow the host and fourth-seeded Coalers to advance to Friday’s Interstate Eight Conference boys basketball tournament championship.

Lane Cowherd backed Peters with 15 points and also had three assists. Segal Arias had seven points and four rebounds. Brennen Shetina scored four points and distributed six assists and Nick Micetich’s two points were accompanied by five steals on the other end.

“I thought the five that were on the floor did a great job. They weren’t tired. We used our timeouts to give them breaks.” Coal City coach Brad Boresi said. “We got contributions from everybody tonight.”

The Coalers took the lead for good in an understated manner – on a Peters free throw with three minutes left in the second quarter. It was the first of six Coal City free throws that accounted for the final points of the half.

After Devin Leo made a layup with 5:32 to go in the second, Seneca did not score again until Conlan Callahan made a 3-pointer at the 5:50 mark of the third quarter. Seneca went 3 for 6 from 3-point land in the first quarter, with Carter Gallick getting all three makes, and was 3 for 22 the rest of the night. The Fighting Irish were 6 for 17 on regular field goals.

“When teams play zone, you gotta do one of two things. You either gotta attack them inside, and when we did attack them inside, we missed shots,” Seneca coach Russell Witte said. “Or you gotta shoot them out of it, and when we shot the ball outside, we missed shots. That’s it.”

All seven of Cowherd’s baskets, which came on eight attempts, came from close range.

“We’re just looking to push the ball up more,” Cowherd said. “Most of the time when I score, I’m getting it on fast break. They’re pushing the ball up ahead, and I’m finishing on easy layups.”

Collectively, the Coalers (12-5) did most of their damage near the basket. They did not make any of their four attempts from 3-point land but were 18 for 29 from inside the arc.

“I know their priority is double-teaming Nick,” Arias said, “so we were a lot of flashing to the paint, nothing really outside, kind of more flashing, because we were collapsing.”

Alex Bott finished with 10 points, five rebounds, three steals and two assists for top-seeded Seneca (15-4). Gallick had nine points, and Callahan and Leo had eight.

The tournament will conclude Friday in Coal City. Seneca faces Herscher for third place at 5:30 p.m., and Coal City and Reed-Custer will play for the championship at 7 p.m.

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