GILLESPIE — The grittiest performance for the Mater Dei girls basketball team Thursday night may not have come from a player.
Longtime coach Dave Kohnen fought off a week-long flu bug to be on the sideline as the Knights knocked off Alton Marquette 49-33 in the championship game of the Class 2A Gillespie Regional at Gillespie High.
Mater Dei (20-8) won its fifth successive regional title and the 20th in program history. Mater Dei advanced to face Carlinville (27-2) or Pittsfield at 6 p.m. Monday in a Class 2A Greenville Sectional semifinal.
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Kohnen was sent home from school early Thursday by athletics director Ron Schadegg, who saw Kohnen was struggling.
Still, Kohnen did not want to leave, but Schadegg insisted. It marked only the second time Kohnen left school due to illness in his 27 years at the Breese-based school.
"I'm not as young as I used to be," the 66-year-old Kohnen joked.
Kohnen managed to get through every single practice leading up to the game.
"He told us we couldn't get within 10 feet of him," senior guard Lainey Kramer said. "He didn't want us to get sick, too."
Kohnen slept for a couple of hours Thursday before making the trip to Macoupin County for the title tilt.
The Knights are looking to reach the state tournament for just the second time in school history. They made the quarterfinal round in 1991. It was Kohnen's first year at the helm.
Mater Dei lost to Elgin St. Edward 60-52 that year and did not make the final four. Back then, eight teams qualified for the state tournament in Champaign.
Kohnen was inducted into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2015.