Boys Basketball

Destination-Peoria: Veteran Central Cougars coaching staff keeps bringing talented teams to state

Central coach Jeremy Shubert hugs assistant coach Donny Petterson on Tuesday following Cougars’ super-sectional win over Teutopolis
Central coach Jeremy Shubert hugs assistant coach Donny Petterson on Tuesday following Cougars’ super-sectional win over Teutopolis Alex Rest

State tournament trips never get old for the Central Cougars, but they also have a little more experience than most.

Their Class 2A semifinal game against St. Joseph-Ogden on Friday in Peoria will mark Central’s sixth state tourney trip since 2003 and their first since winning the 2012 state title.

The trip to Peoria included a stop at the Steak ‘n Shake at Lincoln, as always. The somewhat superstitious Central players sat in the same bus seats they have occupied all season and the coaching staff will be using its vast network of coaches, former players and friends to devise a scouting report on the opponent.

State tourney trips never get old and while some schools hope to make one trip or are lucky enough to make it multiple times, the Cougars appear to have Peoria in their annual postseason itinerary.

STATE TOURNEY PREVIEW: Central vs. St. Joseph-Ogden

“It’s still fun and obviously the coaches and players here don’t ever take anything for granted,” said Central assistant Donny Petterson, who played in the 2004 and 2005 state tourneys as a Cougars player and at 29 is already in his ninth season on the coaching staff. “It’s just as exciting as the first time I went as a coach and the first time as I went as a player.

“It’s something we take pride in.”

It’s still fun and obviously the coaches and players here don’t ever take anything for granted. It’s just as exciting as the first time I went as a coach and the first time as I went as a player.

Central assistant Donny Peterson on the multiple state tourney trips

Central senior scoring leader and second-team all-state selection Logan Kohrmann was in the stands as an eighth grader when the Cougars won the 2012 2A state title. Now he wants that same experience for himself and his teammates.

“It was definitely our biggest goal at the start of the season,” Kohrmann said. “Going to state was the last goal we wanted to accomplish. You dream about this as a kid all throughout grade school and to actually be living it now is a great accomplishment.”

All in the family

Current Central coach Jeremy Shubert was an assistant on the 2012 team. After years of playing youth basketball for his father Kent, a former Okawville baseball player, it as only fitting that he found a way to share the 2012 state title with him.

“The first thing I did was look at my dad in the stands because he was sitting right behind the bench,” Jeremy Shubert said. “When that horn sounded, I turned around and my dad was standing right there. He knew exactly what I was thinking — and I knew exactly what he was thinking.”

When that horn sounded, I turned around and my dad was standing right there. He knew exactly what I was thinking — and I knew exactly what he was thinking.

Central coach Jeremy Shubert talking about 2012 state title moment with his father

Central has quite an extended basketball family that includes former coach Stan Eagleson, former coaches and players and fans scattered throughout Clinton County and everywhere else.

When the Cougars won the Carbondale Super-Sectional on Tuesday, many former players were in the stands. Former Central star Jacob Timmermann, the point guard on the 2012 state title team who now plays for Kaskaskia College, made sure to let the current team know how proud he was.

Timmermann texted the Cougars with a personal message that meant a lot to the entire team.

“He’s been through the wars, so he knows what everybody’s going through,” Central guard Kolby Schulte said. “A little bit of knowledge from him could go a long way for all of us. I was up there for every game when they won it before. The atmosphere was just incredible.”

Their Class 2A semifinal game against St. Joseph-Ogden on Friday in Peoria will mark Central’s sixth state tourney trip since 2003 and their first since winning the 2012 state title.

It was only a text, but it carried a powerful message to players who remember what Timmermann did for the program.

“He said how proud he was of all of us,” Central junior Jack Strieker said. “He said the biggest thing you need to do is have fun. My parents are really close to Jacob’s parents and are close to (former Central star) Brandon (Book)’s parents. It was just really cool watching those guys play.”

Experienced staff provides continuity

Central coach Jeremy Shubert is 75-20 in three seasons since replacing Eagleson. He talked about being amazingly fortunate to have played at Okawville for Hall of Fame coach and current Illinois state senator Dave Luechtefeld, then spending the early part of his coaching career at Central as an assistant under the Hall of Famer Eagleson.

That’s two coaches with a combined total of 1,346 victories, 738 by Luechtefeld and 608 by Eagleson. It’s also quite a coaching family tree.

“I was able to be on the court when Coach Luechtefeld won his 600th game and be next to Stan when he got his 600th,” Shubert said. “That’s pretty special.”

Adding another perspective, Luechtefeld coached at Okawville for 37 years and made three trips to to state. Shubert is making his sixth trip in 17 years at Central.

“I don’t know if I can put it into words, what it means,” Shubert said. “A lot of it speaks about how good of a school Central is and the clientele; not only meaning the players and students but the faculty and administration and the community.

“Family is important around here.”

The Central staff is blessed with experience, from the long tenure of veteran coaches Dave Thomas and Kurt Peters to the relative youthfulness of Petterson and the youngest assistant, former Central player Cody Imming.

“Everybody brings their own perspective,” Shubert said. “Dave commands the respect and the attention of everyone still at age 70. “He’s been through a lot and seen a lot. Kurt Peters it the motivator of the group and he’s the one who’s really tense and in charge, making sure everything gets done.

“Donny and I pretty much take care of all the scouting and preparation work and Cody Imming handles the technology and stats. We have a good group and I wouldn’t trade them for any other coaches around.”

Petterson said the family feel, mixed with the past success, sets the bar a little higher for each new group of freshmen tugging on Cougar uniforms for the first time.

“It is something we take pride in,” Petterson said. “We’re still building the tradition and building the program. Winning is so contagious, so once a team sees another team go (to state) they know what it takes as far as preparation, practices and games.

“I don;’t want any of them to take that lightly because we never do. It takes five wins to get to Peoria.”

Eagleson taught everyone another important building block to the overall program success.

“Coach Eagleson always taught us that you win and lose with class and Jeremy does that still to this day,” Petterson said. “That’s something Coach Eagles passed on to me as a player and now I respect that as a coach.” 

Norm Sanders: 618-239-2454, @NormSanders

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