By Brian Nielsen
Twenty-three seconds into the second quarter, the announcement came that Mallory Ramage’s layup gave her 1,000 varsity points just 18 games into her sophomore season.
That milestobe basket also gave her Mattoon girls’ basketball team a double-digit lead.
When Ramage hit a 3-pointer to end the first half, the Green Wave had a 15-point command as Ramage by herself had matched Olney’s 21-point total.
The tendency could be to relax and celebrate early in Saturday’s Mattoon Girls’ Basketball Holiday Tournament, couldn’t it?
“Yeah, we started to,” Ramage said. “We just had to buckle down and start playing better defense and box out better.”
Coach Amanda Aydt had delivered that message.
So did a scoreboard showing Mattoon’s 15-point lead was down to three with 3:50 to play.
The Wave responded with big plays on both ends of the court, preserving a 54-49 win over Olney for the tournament championship.
“Basketball is a game of runs,” Aydt said. “They made their run. I’m proud the girls kept playing the whole game. Everybody did her job and did what we needed to win.”
Certainly, Ramage, on her way to a 33-point night, knew when to take charge just in case she had not already wrapped up tourney Most Valuable Player honors.
Olney’s Tara Hughes made a driving layup as part of her 18-point game, cutting the Wave’s lead to three.
Then the Tigers missed a 3-point shot that could have tied it.
Then Ramage decided enough was enough.
“I saw some open spots and I took it,” she said.
The sophomore got all the way through Olney’s defense for a layup with 2:51 remaining.
Still, Olney wouldn’t go away as Anna Blank’s 3-pointer pulled the Tigers within two.
Ramage had an answer for that, too.
“I knew my shot was going in so I took it,” she said.
So one night after her 3-pointer in the final seconds lifted Mattoon to a 60-57 semifinal win over defending champion Altamont, Ramage fired in a trey regaining the Wave’s five-point lead with 1:50 left in the championship game.
The sophomore also got some clutch help from a senior teammate.
After Haven Doll’s basket for Olney within three and the Tigers missed a 3-point shot for a tie, Hallie Niemerg converted two free throws for Mattoon’s 52-47 breathing room.
Hughes got one more basket for Olney, but then Ramage put the finishing touches on her MVP weekend with two free throws with 17 seconds to go.
While no individual records are kept for this tourney that has had several different formats in its 41 years, certainly few players have topped the performance of 21-, 26-, 27-, 22-, and 33-point games that Ramage posted in three days.
She had 11 in the title game’s first quarter and her layup to start the second period brought her to the 1,000 mark in her high school career.
Not that the sophomore was counting herself.
“No, I didn’t think I was going to get that until later in the year,” Ramage said. “I couldn’t do it without my teammates.”
Mattoon (17-1) had trailed in each of its first four games of this tournament, but never was behind Saturday while dropping Olney to 13-2.
Ramage started the game with a 3-pointer reminiscent of the previous night’s game-ender and then turned a steal into a layup for a quick 5-0 lead.
That grew to 19-8 when the Green Wave scored the last seven points of the first quarter and first three points of the second.
When Ramage ended the first half with a 3-pointer, she had 21 points and the Green Wave had a 36-21 lead.
“We did a great job on defense,” Aydt said. “I thought we did a good job of running the offense, too.”
Ramage said this superb start brought no false sense of security.
“No, I never think it’s going to be easy,” she said. “We knew Olney was a good team.”
So Mattoon, whose Delainey Bryant joined Ramage on the all-tournament team, came up with answers when tested by Olney’s comeback.
“We got a couple of big stops at the end and got the big rebounds,” Aydt said.
The coach pointed to others as well.
“I thank the community for coming out tonight,” Aydt said. “The atmosphere was great.”
The next chance to see the Wave is a Jan. 9 home game against Apollo Conference foe Mount Zion.
MATTOON: Haacke 0 0-0 0, Greeson 0 0-0 0, Bryant 1 0-3 2, Sapp 3 1-2 7, Pruitt 3 0-0 6, Niebrugge 0 2-2 2, Ramage 11 8-11 33, Niemerg 1 2-2 4. Totals 19 13-20 54.
3-point goals: Ramage 3.
MVP – Mallory Ramage, Mattoon
Anna Blank, Olney
Rachel Jackman, Altamont
Addison Newbon, Decatur St. Teresa
Makayla Rosenbery, Mahomet -Seymour
Kenzie Weiler, Olney
Riley Jenkins, Galesburg
Lucy Fearday, Effingham St. Anthony
Lanee McNary, Vandalia
Delainey Bryant, Mattoon
Allison Hardiek, Altamont
SATURDAY’S OTHER RESULTS
Effingham St. Anthony 48, Vandalia 39, seventh place
Galesburg 60, Decatur St. Teresa 40, fifth place
Mahomet-Seymour 54, Altamont 43, third place