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Johnson: Successful seniors saying goodbye in Coal City

FAIRBURY – Never has a prep coach told me – on the record, anyway – he or she is happy to lose a group of seniors.

Saying goodbye to soon-to-be graduates is one of the most difficult parts of the job. By the time that final loss – or in rare cases, that final win – ends a team’s postseason run, the coach will have spent innumerable hours with its seniors. There may have been some bumps on their road together, but in almost every case, raw displays of mutual thanks and respect are common in the moments after a season ends.

Coal City boys basketball coach Brad Boresi was as emotional as any coach I’ve covered when I asked him about the difficulty of losing his current seniors, and especially Nick Peters and Brennen Shetina, on Tuesday night. It was with good reason.

When Boresi took over the program in 2010-11, they were freshmen, with Shetina on the varsity from the get-go. A collaborative effort between Boresi, Shetina, Peters and the other five Coaler seniors elevated the program from a three-win laughingstock that first year to one that’s won 36 varsity games the past two seasons.

“I mean, those two have been there since I started. We’ve built quite a bond the past four years, so knowing that they’re officially done, that is really tough,” Boresi said. “What the two of them have done – the senior class, Lane Cowherd included – I mean, I feel like they’ve brought Coal City basketball from rock bottom towards the top.

“They’ve been a part of the regional championship team last year, the [Interstate Eight] conference tournament championship this year. They’ve done a lot for Coal City basketball. There’s no words or amount of thanks that I could give them that would be deserving for what they’ve done, but I mean, I owe a lot of them.”

After a 7-20 season in 2011-12, the Coalers arrived last year, with Peters, Shetina and Cowherd assuming key varsity roles. They went 19-13 overall and stunned Morris in the championship game at the Class 3A Herscher Regional.

Some key players like Joe Micetich, Jon West and Chris Jenke were lost from that team. With Peters, the 2013 Morris Daily Herald Player of the Year, and Shetina, who was the toughest omission from the All-Area first team, coming back, I thought they’d whether those losses and have a big year. .59735

To a large extent, they did. Seventeen wins is nothing to sneeze at, and with just 10 losses, they actually won at a higher rate in 2013-14 than they did the year prior. In addition to their I-8 tournament title, they won their own Turkey Tournament.

At the same time, it was a season with some disappointments for Coal City. Its showing at the Plano Christmas Classic was poor. The Coalers finished in a tie for fourth in the I-8 regular-season standings. And a year removed from a sectional run, they were one-and-done in the 2014 playoffs, losing 62-50 to Pontiac Tuesday at the Prairie Central Regional.

“No matter when we went out, if you don’t win it all, you’re gonna be disappointed,” Peters said. “But as far as it taking away from what we did do, I definitely don’t think this one game can do that. You know, most wins we’ve had in a while. The two tournament championships. It’s definitely not diminished those things that we’ve done. It’s definitely not where we wanted to be – you always play for the postseason with sports – but I think it’s alright with what we did.”

The prep basketball careers of Nate Chapman, Cowherd, Bailey DePodesta, Jordan Koenig, Peters, Zack Scerine and Shetina ended more quickly than they may have wanted or expected. They can take solace in knowing the program they leave behind is a significantly healthier one than the one they inherited.

“Varsity freshman, three wins, to I think we had 17,” Shetina said. “Just shows the hard work that this group of seniors has put in the program and the coach has done for us. Just shows what hard work can do for you.

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