By Brian Nielsen
When her Mattoon girls’ basketball team stole the ball with 22 seconds remaining in a tie game, coach Amanda Aydt had two full timeouts available to draw up a potential winning play.
She used neither.
“Sometimes, it’s best not to call a timeout because then the defense doesn’t have time to set up,” Aydt said.
Certainly, Altamont would have liked to have set a strategy not letting the ball get into the hands of Mattoon star Mallory Ramage.
“I didn’t expect to be as open as I was,” the sophomore standout said. “But I had to step up and shoot it.”
Ramage found herself stepping into a 3-point shot from the left side of the key.
A couple of seconds later, the Green Wave had a 60-57 win over Altamont Friday night and a spot in Saturday’s 4:30 p.m. championship game of the 41st annual Mattoon Girls’ Basketball Holiday Tournament.
Mattoon (16-1) will face Olney (13-1) in the fourth game Saturday at the MHS Gym where action is to start at noon when Effingham St. Anthony plays Vandalia for seventh place.
Galesburg will play Decatur St. Teresa for fifth, and Altamont will face Mahomet-Seymour for third before the title game.
“It feels good to get to the championship game,” Mattoon senior Jordan Sapp said. “We went there last year but didn’t finish it. We want to do that (Saturday.)”
Sapp scored her season-high 16 points in Thursday night’s semifinal in support of Ramage, who finished with 22 after getting 27 in Thursday’s 54-44 win over Mahomet-Seymour, making the Green Wave 3-0 for first in Pool A. She had 21 and 26 points in the Wave’s two wins Thursday in the tourney.
“Mallory is a phenomenal player,” Aydt said. “She can go left. She can go right. She can shoot from out or she can pull up for the mid-range jumper. She can do everything.”
Ramage also proved to be human by missing a free throw with 42 seconds left in the semifinal with the score tied at 57.
“You just have to shake it off,” Ramage said. “I knew I had to help the team. I just had to pick it up on defense.”
That chance came after the Altamont turnover.
“I saw Delainey (Bryant) was passing me the ball and I just stepped into the shot,” Ramage said.
That gave the once-beaten Wave the win over Altamont, which was 13-0 before losing a 58-54 mid-day Friday game to Olney to settle for second place in Pool B.
Mattoon had to rally from deficits of 34-28 at halftime and 51-46 with six minutes remaining as Altamont responded from a 15-3 Mattoon run that gave the Wave a short-lived 43-37 lead with 3:34 left in the third quarter.
The fourth quarter had four ties and two lead changes.
Sapp hit an outside jumper with 1:38 left to give Mattoon a 57-55 lead.
“I usually don’t shoot from out,” Sapp said. “I thought, ‘oh crap, what am I getting myself into.’ “
The senior forward was glad to see the shot swish through the net.
Altamont ‘s Brooke Runge tied the game again with two free throws, but Ramage came up with the game winner.
Plenty of others contributed including Bryant who had 14 points.
“Hallie (Niemerg) and (Jordan) Sapp played an excellent game,” Aydt said. “Delainey did a good job running the floor. Faith (Niebruge) came in and played tremendous defense. Kylie (Haacke) and Chloe (Pruitt) gave as some good minutes as well. It was a good team team effort. I’m proud of the girls. They executed the game plan well and made good adjustments during the game.”
In consolation semifinals on Friday, Decatur St. Teresa beat Effingham St. Anthony, 67-37, and Galesburg topped Vandalia, 60-40.
Olney whipped Mahomet-Seymour, 59-36, in the last game Friday night.
In Friday’s pool play, St. Teresa beat Vandalia, 36-26, and Galesburg beat St. Anthony, 57-21.
Mattoon 54, Mahomet-Seymour 44
MATTOON: Haacke 0 0-0 0, Greeson 0 0-0 0, Bryant 1 4-6 6, Gill 0 0-0 0 Sapp 3 4-10 10, Pruitt 0 0-0 0 Niebrugge 1 1-1 3, Ramage 8 9-12 27, Niemerg 3 2-2 8. Totals 16 20-31 54. 3-point goals: Ramage 2. Rebounds: Niemerg 6, Niebrugge 6, Ramage 5. Assists: Ramage 2, Bryant 2. Steals: Ramage 1, Bryant 1, Niemerg 1, Sapp 1.
Mattoon 60, Altamont 57
MATTOON: Haacke 0 0-0 0, Greeson 0 0-0, Bryant 5 4-6 14, Sapp 7 2-3 16, Pruitt 0 0-0 0, Niebrugge 1 0-0 2, Ramage 7 6-8 22, Niemerg 3 0-0 6. Totals 23 12-17 60. 3-point goals: Ramage 2. Rebounds: Ramage 7, Niemerg 3. Assists: Ramage 5, Bryant 3. Steals: Ramage 2, Bryant 2.