Mallory Ramage (above left), Shae Littleford. (File photos)

Charleston junior guard Shae Littleford and Mattoon sophomore guard Mallory Ramage were each named to the Associated Press Class 3A all-state girls basketball team.

Ramage is also expected to be honored as a second-team selection for the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association all-state team.

The 5-foot-9 sophomore averaged 21.5 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.4 steals and 2.4 assists in 33 games this season, accumulating the most points, steals, rebounds and assists on a 27-6 team that won the Apollo Conference title, a Class 3A regional title before losing to Bethalto Civic Memorial in the sectionals. Ramage was also a first-team all-Apollo Conference selection and was the MVP in both the Pana and Mattoon Holiday tournaments.

Littleford, who was a first-team all-state selection last season, averaged 22.3 points, 3.4 assists and 3.4 rebounds in just 16 games this season for a team that featured four freshmen starters and finished 9-18. A knee injury sidelined the 5-foot-7 guard for six weeks.

“My goodness!” Charleston coach Jeff Miller said. “She (Shae) missed almost half of the season and she still got 13th in the state. I am really proud of her.”

Although their seasons have been very different in terms of team results, the two players have something in common: They don’t leave you indifferent when you see them play.  They both have that confident look that leaders have, that same wordless appearance that says: “Give me the ball and I’ll sort it out” at difficult moments in the game. 

It comes to my mind the game that Charleston played against Mahomet-Seymour in early December. With 16 seconds left in the game, Charleston needed Littleford to make her two free throws to take the lead. So what did Shae do? Not only did she make both of her free throws, but she also stole the ball afterward to secure the win. Littleford finished the game with 28 points. 

“It makes me so proud.” Miller said. “She is an extension of me on the court, and a great mentor for her teammates.” 

It was not an easy season for the junior, who has already committed to play college basketball at UT Martin. She had to sit out for six weeks because of a knee injury during which her young, inexperienced Charleston teammates struggled in that time without her. The Trojans often started five freshmen. During that time, Shae mentored the freshmen. In just her second game back, she scored 27 points in a loss to Mattoon.  

But statistics aside, what is most striking about this player is that she leaves her soul in every game, in every possession, in every split ball –– and that is something that cannot be trained. It’s something that only the best players have. 

“Her will to win to win is not given to many people,” Miller said. “She is a leader on and off the court.”

Shae Littleford returned to defend Mallory Ramage in the second game between the Coles County rivals. (File photo)

As for Ramage, she is the leader of her team despite being only a sophomore. She achieved a feat few reach in a full high school career – scoring her 1,000th point only 18 games into her sophomore year. She did so in the Mattoon holiday tournament against Olney in a game in which she also scored a season-high of 33 points.

“It is nice to see Mallory get well deserved recognition,” Mattoon’s coach Amanda Aydt said, “She worked hard all year long and played outstanding basketball.” 

Ramage is a player of tremendous talent and intelligence who knows how to adapt very well to different situations. In the game Mattoon played against Charleston in February, Ramage understood that her job in that game was not to score a lot of points since her defender was Littleford. Instead of getting frustrated, she played intelligently, tying up defenders and then assisting her teammates to help the Green Wave win the game.

“Mallory can do everything on the basketball court,” Aydt said. “She can handle the ball, score off the dribble, shoot from anywhere on the floor and find her open teammates. Mallory is a leader on the court and in the locker room.”