Plano may have lost its chance at a signature win in the second quarter.
The Reapers, host of the Plano Christmas Classic, were running at every opportunity early on and threatened to run unbeaten Coal City out of the gym. But the Coalers clamped down on defense and chipped away at the lead, prevailing 55-54 on a Brennan Shetina free throw with eight seconds remaining.
"We had a chance to really put them away in the second quarter," noted Plano coach Kyle Kee after his team led 20-8 early in the stanza. "But (the Coalers) have a couple really good players and (Nick) Peters is really, really good. He kind of made us look silly at times."
Peters, a 6-foot-8 center, was a one-man wrecking crew for Coal City. While the senior had eight turnovers as a result of a prominent ball-handling role for a big man, he more than made up for it with the rest of his play. Peters led everyone with 23 points, 14 rebounds, six assists, and six blocked shots.
Nowhere was Peters' impact evident more than the opening minutes of the third quarter. On three of the first four scoring possessions for the Coalers, Peters broke pressure, dribbled into a double-team, and found Lane Cowherd for a layup. Cowherd's third basket brought Coal City (8-0) within 36-34, and it would be nip and tuck the rest of the way.
Tied 54-54 in the final two minutes, Plano worked the ball for a last shot before Elijah Wallace was called for traveling. Shetina had a chance to give the Coalers the lead with 11 seconds remaining but missed the front end of a bonus opportunity. Cowherd (14 points) got the offensive rebound and Shetina was fouled again, making the decisive free throw.
Wallace was outstanding for Plano (5-5) in a losing effort. He had 22 points, including 16 in the second half, and his 3-pointer with 3:11 remaining put the Reapers up 52-47. But Cowherd converted a three-point play after a Shetina steal to bring Coal City back to 54-all.
"Elijah's been our leader so far," said Kee. "Whenever we need a big shot, he's been our guy. He had another really good game for us, which is what we expect from him on a nightly basis."
Kee attributed Coal City's 1-2-2 zone defense to his team's struggles.
"We struggled against their zone," said Kee. "They were able to just pack it in and make it tough to get to the basket, which is our game."
Udochukwu Agomo was the only other Reaper in double figures with 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting from the field. Jon McDermott chipped in with eight points and six rebounds for the Reapers. But Plano was hurt with 1-of-10 shooting from beyond the arc against the Coaler zone.