Mattoon’s Hallie Niemerg missed Wednesday’s game with an injury.

By Joe Gisondi

There is a reason Paris is 23-0 and ranked No. 1 in Class 2A.

Mattoon, unfortunately, learned the hard way –– firsthand on its home court where Paris effortlessly knocked down 3-pointers, sliced through the backcourt to catch passes for easy baskets, pressed from baseline to baseline and grabbed numerous offensive rebounds.

As a result, a talented 19-2 Green Wave squad fell behind early and never really threatened after the first quarter in a 60-29 loss Wednesday night at the Mattoon gym.

After the game, Mattoon coach Amanda Aydt searched for the words to describe what happened, laconically offering: “They’re just a good basketball team.”

They were.

To wit:

Jenna Gates fired a pass to Karrington Krabel, who, alone under the rim, laid in two points untouched near the end of the first quarter that gave Paris a 17-8 lead.

Krabel later drifted alone under the basket when a teammate attempted a 3-pointer in the second quarter. The ball caromed off the rim, which she smoothly swiped and laid in that made it 24-10.

Madyson Rigdon fired a 3-pointer in the third quarter that, at first, seemed to be launched from a comically long distance – at least five feet past the arc. The ball swished through the net as she fell backward almost out of bounds near the mid-court bleachers. That made it 46-20.

Sarah Isaf, the MVP of the Charleston Holiday Tournament, drove toward the basket near the free-throw line in the fourth quarter, crisply firing a pass to an unguarded Krabel, who stood under the basket. But the senior missed the unchallenged lay-in. She was able to grab the rebound, though, and score to make it 57-25.

That’s how it went most of the night – precise passing, second-chances and fine shooting.

Mattoon’s Faith Niebrugge makes a short jumper in the first half.

“We switched up the defenses throughout the game,” Aydt said. “They were hitting shots. They didn’t miss.”

Paris coach David Tingley said they focused on stopping sophomore Mallory Ramage, who had poured in 32 points earlier this week against Lincoln and had scored 20 in a key conference victory last week over Mt. Zion.

After reviewing game film, Tingley and his staff decided they ought to move Ramage to her right when she drove toward the basket. When Ramage scored eight points in the second quarter, Tingley decided to send additional defenders at her, which ultimately helped limit the guard to three points in the second half.

Still, Tingley said, it was not an easy task.

“She’s got that great move,” Tingley said. “She’s so long that she can step to her right, pull back and go left. So you almost have to cut her off. She holds her body, almost like James Harden. She holds her body in the air, sees where she’s at, lifts the ball and releases that little floater.”

Ramage scored a team-high 13 points in the Green Wave’s lowest point total this season.

Paris has allowed just two teams to finish within 10 points – Teutopolis in overtime and Sacred Heart Griffin, both during the holiday tournament. Only a handful of teams have stayed within 20 points: Danville, Tri-County, Mater Dei and No. 8 Class 2A Teutopolis in a second game.

Paris entered the game having outscored opponents by a 64-32.4 margin.

“It was probably one of the best offensive rebound games we’ve had,” Tingley said. “We attacked them. They overplayed their defense a little bit, but that’s part of their game plan. That’s probably why we were able to overpower them.”

Isaaf scored a game-high 22 points, Krabel added 14 and Rigdon had 10.

Paris is the first of three state-ranked opponents over a two-week period. The Green Wave face Class 3A No. 10 Decatur MacArthur (16-2) on Monday and Teutopolis in two weeks.

Said Aydt: “We’ve just got to learn from this, get better and get ready for the next game”

Mattoon next plays host to St. Joseph-Ogden at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday.

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MATTOON (29): Haacke 2 0-0 5, Bryant 2 0-0 4, Sapp 1 0-0 2, Gill 0 0-0 0, Pruitt 0 0-0 0, Jurka 0 0-0 0, Farmer 0 0-0 0, Niebrugge 2 1-2 5, Ramage 5 3-6 13. Totals 12 4-8 29. 3-pointers – Haacke 1. Rebounds – Ramage 4, Greeson 3. Steals – Pruitt 2.