FAIRBURY – The records and the seeds portrayed Coal City as the favorite over Pontiac going into Tuesday’s semifinal game at the Class 3A Prairie Central Boys Basketball Regional.
Third-seeded Pontiac looked the part of a team battle-tested from a Corn Belt Conference schedule, upending No. 2 Coal City, 62-50. The Indians led from the 3:54 mark of the first quarter, when a Kye Comincioli basket put them ahead 4-3, to the finish.
“Pontiac’s definitely not a team you take lightly. They play a lot of good competition,” Coal City center Nick Peters said. “I feel like we came in with a good gameplan. We had a good scouting report on ’em. We knew what they were gonna try to do and how we wanted to attack ’em. I guess they just kinda outplayed us tonight.”
After going 1-for-6 from 3-point land during the first quarter (but still taking a 13-9 lead), the Indians (7-18) made 4-of-8 attempts from deep in the second as their lead doubled to 29-21 by halftime. Four different players hit 3s for Pontiac. Coal City needed 3s from Nick Micetich and Brennen Shetina to stay as close as it did.
The Coalers, who average just over six 3-point attempts per game, wound up trying 12 Tuesday, with Micetich providing two of their three makes.
“We’re not a very good 3-point shooting team,” Shetina said, “and you could hear their coach [Brandon Martin] yelling it from the sideline, ‘Pack it in,’ all game when Micetich wasn’t on the floor. We did hit some, but they didn’t really go away from their gameplan very much.”
Coal City (17-10) made a 10-3 run during the third quarter which cut its deficit to four points. Lane Cowherd converted two conventional three-point plays during the stretch. Pontiac got two baskets from Neil Lambert late in the third to nudge its lead back up to 43-37, then two more early in the fourth from Comincioli.
Two Cowherd free throws with 6:11 to play got Coal City within 47-41, but it was never that close again, and the Indians slowly padded their lead from there.
Pontiac, which will meet Morris in Friday’s regional championship, was forced into only five turnovers and just two in the first three quarters. Lambert, with 17 points, was its leading scorer.
Cowherd paced the Coalers with 18 points on 7-for-10 shooting. Peters had 13 points, 20 rebounds, six assists and four blocked shots.
“We got some good looks early, just didn’t convert,” Coal City coach Brad Boresi said. “We hit some shots throughout the game, but when you are chasing points the entire game, it’s tough to be as patient offensively as you’d like to.”