STREATOR – Winning basketball games this season at Pops Dale Gymnasium has been a source of pride, a badge of honor, and something to behold for the Streator boys basketball team, as it reeled off wins in the first seven games on the home court this season.
But, facing a very worthy and physical Illinois Central Eight Conference opponent in Coal City for the third time since the start of the season, things would not prove to be the charm for the Bulldogs.
After the Coalers captured the first ICE regular season meeting at Coal City on Dec. 20, Streator followed by besting the Coalers in the consolation championship at the Plano Christmas Classic a week later.
However, Coal City took the rubber game of the series easily out-distancing the Bulldogs 61-45 Friday evening where everything seemed to go right, while Streator saw its home winning streak at Pops snapped as most things went amiss.
Coal City (15-10, 8-3) led from start to finish, up four points after one quarter, 10 at the half, and 14 after three periods before cruising to the impressive victory shooting a very healthy 24 of 51 (47 percent) from the field as well as a respectable 9 of 24 (38 percent) beyond the 3-point arc.
Conversely, Streator (16-7, 8-3) shot a chilly 17 of 52 (33 percent) from the floor with only 3 of 23 (13 percent) connecting beyond the arc. Add to that hitting a mere 8 of 18 (44 percent) from the free throw line and the Bulldogs never really were able to mount a charge toward a win the third time around against the Coalers.
"The quality of our shots had a lot to do with our poor percentage and you have to give all the credit in the world to Coal City," said Streator coach Beau Doty. "They came in with an edge tonight where we've been so good at home this year and really took it too us. We were just out of sorts from the start and their zone defense hurt us tonight like it did the first time we played them and lost back in December. We fell right into their physical type of play and let them dictate the way the game was going to be contested. So hats off to them for ending our win streak on our home court."
Sophomore Jack Haynes led the way for the Bulldogs with a team-leading 13 points and 11 rebounds while senior Amarion Ford added 12 tallies including 10 in the first half.
The Coalers countered with five impressive individual performances even without starter Payton Hutchings, who was out with an injury.
Senior Austin Pullara led the way with a game-high 14 points. Senior Jack Bunton followed with 11 points while junior Kyle Burch notched 10. Senior Jarod Garrelts chipped in with nine points and a game-high 13 rebounds. Seniors Cade Mueller and Brady Crawford added nine and eight points respectively as Coal City had its way for most of the night.
"I was a little concerned without Payton (Hutchings) in the lineup, but we sure did a great job in executing without him," said CCHS coach Glenn Pacek. "Our game plan was to go back to zone like the time we first played them and won before we went to man defense at the Christmas Classic and lost. So that was probably my fault, but we adjusted and just put forth one heck of a game against a very solid Streator team."
The Coalers owned a 13-9 lead after one quarter where Pullara notched six points ahead of Ford's five.
Both would add the same amount of tallies in the second stanza as Pullara nailed a pair of 3-ballls at 3:50 and 2:55 to help build his teams lead to 30-20 at the half.
Coal City stretched the advantage to 40-22 in the third frame after Bunton's right-baseline triple at 4:05. He'd add a left-wing 3-ball with two seconds to go in the quarter to put the visitors ahead 46-32 with eight minutes left to contest.
There, Streator fell behind 54-33 with 4:44 to go on Garrelt's right-wing trey before Haynes tallied a pair of inside buckets that cut the gap to 54-39 ahead of the three minute mark. From there, the Coalers closed things out in style as the benches emptied.