Saturday might have been the winter solstice, but the day felt anything but short for the Charleston girls basketball team.

Playing without injured all-state player Shae Littleford for the second straight game, the freshmen-heavy Trojans struggled mightily against an experienced, pressing Mattoon squad during a 68-27 loss at Baker Gym.

Behind its own all-state player, Mattoon scored the first 13 points, forced 13 turnovers and outscored Charleston 22-2 in the first quarter. Mallory Ramage entered the game averaging 21.7 points, 2.73 assists and 3.4 steals per game. The sophomore played a part in all except one score in the opening quarter.

Ramage drove the length of the court for scores three times – the last one after intercepting a pass at the top of the key that made it 22-2 in the final seconds.

The Green Wave guard also kicked out a pass to Hallie Niemerg for a basket, heaved a long pass off a steal to Kylie Haacke for a layup, and sent a precise pass between defenders to Delainey Bryant, who was cutting to the basket, for another layup.

“Our passes have gotten a lot better,” Ramage said. “And once we get a good pass, all of us just get going and it helps us create even more points.”

Mallory Ramage makes the steal and scores Saturday.

Ramage made a 3-pointer as well in recording 14 of her game-high 20 points in the opening quarter.

Plus, she registered seven steals, twice her average. Mattoon had 16 total steals, matching its season high.

“We were seeing a lot of passes that we could get,” Ramage said. “Our defense enabled us to get steals to make baskets.”

The Green Wave entered the game averaging 12.8 steals a game.

“Defense creates offense for us,” Mattoon coach Amanda Aydt said.

Said Charleston coach Jeff Miller: “The turnovers were big. We had 13 turnovers in the first quarter. You’re not going to win many ball games – any ball games – turning the ball over that many times.”

Mattoon, which substituted liberally in the next three quarters, slowly built its biggest lead of the first half, 43-6, with a minute remaining.

A 12-foot jumper by Delaney Meister and a layup after an offensive rebound by Maggie Goetten made it 43-10 at the half.

Charleston changed its defensive scheme to start the second half, which resulted in a few steals and turnovers –– as well as a 9-2 run over a two-minute span that made it 52-23.

But Mattoon then scored the next 12 points to make it 64-23 and prompt a running clock in the fourth quarter.

Miller, who starts four freshmen, says patience is the key to developing his youthful squad. “I realize they’re young,” he said. “I realize we’re going to make mistakes.”

Mattoon, ranked No. 5 in Class 3A by MaxPreps, improves to 12-0 overall and 5-0 in the Apollo Conference. Charleston drops to 5-6, 2-3.

The Green Wave take on Sullivan on Monday night at Mattoon Middle School. The Trojans next play in their holiday tournament that starts Dec. 26.

 1234F
Mattoon241921468
Charleston2813427

MATTOON (68)

Haacke 2 0-0 4, Greeson 0 2-2 2, Bryant 3 0-0 6, Gill 0 0-0 0, Sapp 2 3-4 7, Pruitt 5 2-4 15, Jurka 0 0-0 0, Farmer 1 0-0 2, Niebrugge 3 0-0 6, Ramage 6 7-7 20, Niemerg 3 0-0 6, Haldorsen 0 0-0 0. Totals 25 14-17 68. 

3-pointers –  Pruitt 3, Ramage 1. Rebounds –  Niebrugge 5, Sapp 3, Bryant 3. Steals – Ramage 7, Niebrugge 3, Gill 2, Bryant 2. Assists – Ramage 4, Gill 2, Niemerg 2. Blocks – Bryant 1.

CHARLESON (27)

Goetten 1 0-1 2, Hutchins 1 0-0 3, Triplett 6 0-4 12, Meister 1 0-0 2, Blair 1 0-0 2, Herrington 3 0-1 6, Logsdon, Long 0 0-0 0, Campbell 0 -0 0. Totals 13 0-6 27.

3-pointers – Hutchins 1.

JV result – Mattoon 56, Charleston 17.