By Joe Gisondi
Delainey Bryant scored nearly twice her season average, gaining confidence at the perfect time – in a game against girls basketball Apollo Conference co-leader Mt. Zion.
Bryant, Mattoon’s junior guard, made six of eight shots for 18 points, grabbed four rebounds, recorded two steals and helped spark a late rally that secured the Green Wave’s 50-35 victory over the visiting Braves on Thursday night.
The victory leaves Mattoon (18-1), ranked No. 14 in the latest IHSA Class 3A poll, as the only unbeaten team midway through the conference season at 7-0. Mt. Zion drops to 5-1. No other team has a winning record in the conference, the next best record being Mahomet-Seymour at 3-4.
“I was ready to get out of my slump,” said Bryant, who entered the game averaging 10.1 points per game. “I needed more confidence and I took the shots when I got the chance. Sometimes, I think I’m a little timid. I get in my head a little bit. Today, I was ready.”
Bryant tied teammate Mallory Ramage for a game-high 12 points at halftime when the Green Wave held a 26-20 lead. She also scored the final four points during a 12-1 Mattoon run that started near the end of the third quarter and ended at the 3:32 mark of the final quarter after Bryant swatted the ball from a Braves ball handler, turned back toward the basket, dribbled twice and layed in her 17th and 18th points to make it 50-33 – essentially icing the game.
“She did a great job of running the floor, scoring in transition, attacking the basket and going up strong,” Mattoon coach Amanda Aydt said. “Delainey was ready to catch and shoot on the outside. She’s also a great defensive player and had a lot of deflections and a few steals.”
Bryant recorded two of the Green Wave’s 10 steals, roughly the team’s average per game this season. Ramage, who scored 20 points, had four swipes for a Green Wave defense that limited the Braves (14-4) to 18 points below its season average.
“Defense is our most important thing,” Bryant said. “It’s something that we work the hardest on. Our defense is what leads to our offense – easy transition baskets and things like that.”
Jordan Sapp contributed 10 points on four-of-eight shooting and snared three rebounds.
“We played great team defense,” Aydt said. “They were helping each other out, communicating, finding where the shooters were and getting our hands up. They didn’t have an easy shot.”
Ramage had a team-high six rebounds for Mattoon which next plays host to Lincoln on Monday. The Green Wave have moved next Thursday’s game against Paris to Wednesday with an earlier 6:15 p.m. start.
Mattoon and Mt. Zion will next play Feb. 13 in their respective season finales with the conference title likely on the line.
MATTOON (50): Bryant 7 2-2 18, Sapp 4 1-2 10, Ramage 8 2-2 20, Niebrugge 1 0-0 2, Haacke 0 0-0 0, Gill 0 0-0 0, Pruitt 0 0-0 0, Niemerg 0 0-0 0. Totals 20 5-6 50. 3-pointers – Ramage 2, Bryant 2, Sapp 1. Rebounds – Ramage 6, Bryant 4, Sapp 3, Niemerg 3. Steals – Ramage 4, Niemerg 2, Bryant 2.