BOYS BASKETBALL: 30-point third quarter pushes Coal City past Peotone
PEOTONE — Faced with a 31-21 halftime deficit on Friday, Coal City coach Keith Kiper said his team had a decision to make in the locker room on how they wanted to finish out their Interstate Eight Conference contest at Peotone.
And after the Coalers racked up 30 points in the third quarter, it’s safe to say they made the right decision.
Thanks to a 14-point outburst in the quarter from Austin Pullara and a tenacious full-court press that forced 10 Peotone turnovers in the third, the Coalers rode that hot third quarter to a 66-56 win over the Blue Devils.
“I don’t know if we ran two plays the whole third quarter, it was nothing but defense,” Kiper said. “It was a decision that the guys needed to make, what type of effort they wanted to put out there.
“They decided that in the second half, they wanted to put it out there and get a win.”
The Coalers improved to 11-6 and 5-1 in the conference, and the Blue Devils fell to 2-13 and 2-4 in conference play.
It was the Blue Devils who came out as early aggressors, burying two 3-pointers in the game’s first 90 seconds to get out to an early 6-0 lead, one they built into double-digits when Danny Walsh beat the halftime buzzer from just inside the half-court line to make it a 31-21 affair.
Peotone coach Eric Peppmuller said his team had plenty of inspiration for their sizzling start, as the town’s police officers and firefighters were honored in a pregame ceremony.
“We talked about how police officers and firefighters rely on their training, and that’s what we would have to do to be successful tonight,” Peppmuller said. “I felt we did that in the first half; I felt we fell back on those fundamentals we work on day after day.
“Unfortunately, due to exhaustion and credit to (Coal City), they made adjustments and put a press on that we couldn’t respond to immediately.”
After sitting in a 2-3 zone for a majority of the first half, the Coalers switched up the style with their second-half pressure and the results were immediate.
It took just two minutes for the Coalers to overcome the 10-point deficit when Pullara’s steal and ensuing layup put the Coalers up 34-33. After the Blue Devils responded with a quick layup, Pullara scored again moments later to put the Coalers back ahead 36-35, a lead they would hold onto and continue to build off of.
“Coming in at halftime, we were down, and we knew they weren’t the better team, so we needed a spark,” Pullara said. “We had to come out fast, and we did exactly that, and piled up some turnovers and points.
“Defense is a spark plug for this team — once we get aggressive and force turnovers, they can’t man up with our toughness.”
Pullara led all players with a robust 25 points and added 13 rebounds, three steals and two assists. His 14 points in the third frame was more than the Blue Devils were able to muster up as a team (10).
“He fuels himself on his defensive side; we have plays in our offense to try and get him the ball, but a majority of the time, we don’t have to, because he just makes plays,” Kiper said of the junior forward. “Offensive rebounds, getting steals and getting easy buckets, that’s where his game comes from.”
Pullara wasn’t the only Coaler to dominate on the boards and in the paint. Center Jarod Garrelts added 10 points and 13 boards, while also recording four blocks.
Whether it was Pullara’s all-around game, Garrelt’s inside prescence, or the play of point guard Payton Hutchings, who had 12 points, four rebounds and four assists, Kiper said that when the Coalers are playing the team basketball they did in the second half, they’re a tough squad to handle.
“Once we come and gel as a team, we’re hard to stop,” Kiper said. “We can get scoring from a variety of people and get everyone on the same page.”
The Blue Devils were led by Logan Heflin and Caleb Hunter, who had 15 points apiece. Heflin, who added five rebounds, two steals and a block, is a player Peppmuller said just seems to have a nose for the rim.
“He has an attrition to get it done,” Peppmuller said. “He’s very strong off the elbows, his first couple dribbles get places quickly and he’s a strong kid, so once he gets in that lane, it’s a pretty good place to be.”
The Blue Devils are back in action today in home non-conference matchup with Oak Park. Coal City is back in action on Tuesday with a home conference tilt against Lisle.