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COAL CITY — Both Coal City and Peotone entered its respective seasons knowing that its teams were going to be much closer in talent than last year’s two Coaler blowout victories proved, and Friday night’s matchup in Coal City was proof of that.

The Blue Devils came out firing on all cylinders with Mason Kibelkis leading the charge. Kibelkis began the game 3-3 from beyond the arc which helped the Blue Devils take a surprising three-point lead after the first quarter, but the Coalers were eventually able to slow down Kibelkis and the Blue Devils and ran away with a 55-43 win.

“Our second half adjustment was really simple — we put Kyle Burch on Mason Kibelkis, Peotone’s best player,” Coal City head coach Glenn Pacek said. “Burch’s athleticism and height really helped him have a great defensive effort. And the other thing was our depth, they did a great job.”

Pacek made the second half adjustment of switching Riley Ponio off Kibelkis for Burch, which resulted in shutting down Peotone’s leading scorer to just two second-half points as well as opening up Ponio’s offensive game.

“And Burch was really able to step up and that allowed me to carry over some more points on the offensive end,” Ponio said. “I think that is what really helped us carry out the win in the end.”

Along with keying in on Kibelkis on the defensive end, the Coalers showed why they are one of the more balanced squads in the ICE Conference. Coal City totaled four scorers that finished in double-digits, including Ponio who scored a team-high 15 points with six of them coming in the final quarter.

“Most of my points came off really good passes from my teammates,” Ponio said. “I think I got a lot of open looks because of them and I think it just an overall good team win tonight.”

The Coalers’ defensive intensity showed throughout in the second half. After Peotone cut it within one point early in the third Coal City went on a 15-7 run to close the quarter, giving them the much needed breathing room to hold the Blue Devils off.

“I think it was just a matter of us not being able to trade baskets with Coal City in the second half,” Peotone head coach Todd Zasadil said. “We couldn’t put any scoring runs together.”

Although it wasn’t the result first-year head coach Todd Zasadil wanted, he was proud to see his team make strides in the right direction.

“I thought we played super hard and our effort was there all night,” Zasadil said. “Our execution was better than our first game so we are getting better everyday and that’s all I can ask for especially with the shortness of practice time.”

STAT BOOK

Ponio led the Coalers scoring parade with 15 points, two more than Burch. Cason Headley and Trent Sandeno each added 10 points.

Kibelkis dropped a game-high 17 points to lead the Blue Devils in their defeat.

UP NEXT

Peotone (0-2) will head to Wilmington for another ICE matchup against the Panthers on Saturday at 11:30 a.m., meanwhile the Coalers (1-1) will take the rest of the weekend off before heading to Herscher on Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Cody is a sports journalist who's been with the Daily Journal since 2020. He's been a sports reporter since his days at the University of Iowa where he graduated in 2019.