By Race Archibald
It doesn’t matter the level of competition, setting, or stakes of the game.
People care about rivalry games and circle those dates on their calendar.
Charleston (9-10) will be looking to complete the season sweep of Mattoon (8-12) when the two sides meet in a Coles County clash Friday night at Mattoon High School. The Trojans rallied from an 11-point deficit in the 4th quarter in their last matchup to defeat the Green Wave 53-49.
Charleston coach Brad Oakley knows the task will be much harder this time around.
“It’s going to be a loud crowd and an intense game,” Oakley said. “You have to be able to handle things mentally and emotionally.”
In the last matchup, Mattoon forward Sam Bradbury had 10 points in the first half, but scored only two points in the second half as a result of Charleston sending extra defenders to slow Bradbury down.
“Charleston did a good job of taking Sam away in the second half,” Mattoon coach Ryan Ghere said. “We didn’t look to the post like we should have. Getting him post touches will be a priority on Friday.”
Mattoon comes into this game on a three-game win streak after having routed Tolono Unity 71-53 last week. Cam’Ron Thomas leads the Green Wave in scoring with 14.4 per game.
“We have really cut down the turnovers in our last three games,” Ghere said. “We have also had different players step up and score at different times.”
Mattoon is suffocating its opponents from 3-point range, holding its opponents to just 24% while converting 36% of its own 3s.
Charleston scored a season-high 81 points in its last game against Sullivan. Caleb Hurst, the leading scorer for the Trojans, led the team with 19.
“We have to do a better job of finding Hurst on the perimeter and contesting his shots,” Ghere said. “We also need to do a better job of rebounding so he doesn’t get any second-chance points.”
Bradbury is a big part of Mattoon’s offense, and has received the attention of the entire Charleston team.
“Sam Bickford is a good defensive player for us down low,” Oakley said. “We can get some help to Bickford, and make it tough on Bradbury, try to make him earn every point he gets.”
Both coaches are taking a “next game up” approach to the matchup, but understand the importance of this game.
“For the players, I think there is a little more excitement and energy in the building,” Ghere said. “It’s a fun rivalry and, hopefully, we play better at home than we did on the road.”
“It’s a rivalry game, both sides want to play well and win,” Oakley said. “But, as a coach, I want to win this game. I want to win Tuesday as well and next Friday.”
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