Cam’Ron Thomas ignited a key run that helped Mattoon take an early lead Friday night that it never relinquished. (photo/Chet Piotrowski)

By Blake Faith

Mattoon’s boys basketball team led from start to finish and used a 19-2 run behind junior Cam’Ron Thomas’ 12 straight points to defeat the Trojans 67-43, earning a split in this cross-county rivalry.

Charleston’s defense focused in on 6-foot-8 sophomore Sam Bradbury from the opening tip. With Bradbury being double-teamed, the Green Wave spaced the floor and swung the ball for open 3-point shots. 

Twelve of the first 16 points scored by Mattoon were from the 3-point line courtesy of seniors Dalton Compton and Josiah Morton. The Green Wave made six 3-pointers in the first half combined. 

“It’s one of those things where you have a big guy like that and they have some good shooters as well. You have to pick your poison a little bit,” Charleston coach Brad Oakley said. “We were going to try to take away Bradbury, take away their drives and take away their inside. Give them credit, they stepped up and knocked down some shots.”

Thomas failed to score in the first quarter, but Mattoon coach Ryan Ghere was not worried about his leading scorer’s abilities. 

The Green Wave went on a 7-0 run late in the second quarter behind a Bradbury layup, a Compton three-point play, and a Thomas floater to put the Green Wave ahead, 23-17.  

Charleston junior Sam Brickford ended the run by making a layup, but Thomas finished what he had started by scoring 12 straight points to cap a 19-2 run to put the Green Wave ahead, 33-17.

“He’s (Thomas) matured so much. Last year, he would’ve struggled so much if he had a poor first quarter,” Mattoon coach Ryan Ghere said. “He’s grown up a little bit and he really does a good job of letting the game come to him. We don’t say much to him, but you can see he’s so versatile when he can get to the rim, his floater, and hit 3-point shots.”

In the first game between these two teams earlier this month, Charleston had chipped away at a double-digit lead and came back to win the game, 53-49. Ghere said the struggle all year was to build the lead. That has been a point of emphasis since Christmas break.

“Every time they came over to the huddle, we talked about building the lead,” Ghere said. “Every quarter, we increased the lead. I give them credit for growing up a little bit and playing unselfish tonight.” 

The Green Wave improve to 9-11 and 2-5 in the Apollo Conference. Their next game is against Champaign Centennial at home at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday.

The Trojans (9-10, 2-5) next travel to play Richland County at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday.

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