By Kyle Daubs
Girls basketball in Coles County has been exciting this past decade, making Monday and Thursdays during cold, winter nights far more tolerable.
Mattoon finished the last 10 basketball seasons 165-135 for a .550 winning percentage while Charleston finished 164-104 for a .612 winning percentage. That’s a combined 329 wins to 239 losses.
In Mattoon, coach Amanda Aydt became the program’s saving grace. A two-time coach of the year, Aydt turned a losing Lady Wave program into a competitive squad. Over her last six seasons, Aydt’s teams went 121-64 (.654), capturing three Apollo Conference titles, three Regional championships, and a trip to the Sweet 16 with a school-record 30 wins.
Charleston coach Jeff Miller, meanwhile, became the school’s all-time leader in wins. The Lady Trojans won 20 games for five straight seasons, captured three Regional championships, posted an undefeated regular season (29-1), earned two Apollo Conference titles, and, at one point, had the state’s No. 1 ranked offense for points scored.
Needless to say, this All-Decade team would keep up with anybody.
Our format follows as structured: a starting lineup of five, three bench players, one that receives an apology, and one for fun.
Guard: Shae Littleford (CHS Class of 2021): If a knee injury hadn’t sideline Littleford (above) for nearly half of last season, the All-State selection would be Charleston’s all-time leading scorer by now. At 1,611 points, Littleford needs 266 points to break that record. In addition, Littleford scored 547 points as a freshman on route to Charleston’s Sweet 16 appearance, followed by a single-season 707 points during her sophomore season. Littleford is also approaching the record for all-time career assists as well. The senior has committed to playing college basketball with UT-Martin.
Guard: Avery Jackson (MHS Class of 2017): Jackson was fierce, athletic, and one of the best overall basketball players to go through Mattoon’s program. She finished with 1,693 career points and continued her career at Lake Land College. Jackson was the team’s go-to scorer during Mattoon’s 30-2 and Sweet 16 basketball team in 2016-17.
Forward: Paige Swango (CHS Class of 2018): Swango was the best overall shooter Coles County has ever seen. Swango’s 292 career 3-pointers are not only Charleston’s career record, but also ranks top in the state. Swango owns the single-season record for three-pointers (95) and has 1,658 career points (third in school history). Swango signed with Rose Hulman Institute of Technology.
Forward: Sierra Thompson (MHS Class of 2017): Thompson and Jackson might be Mattoon’s best combination since burgers and fries. The two were key contributors in Mattoon’s 30-2 and Sweet 16 basketball team. Thompson averaged 16.1 points and 10.9 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks per game that season, earning her a spot on the All-State Honorable-Mention team and as WCIA-TV 3’s Player of the Year. Thompson finished with 1,374 points and a school-record 1,268 rebounds, which landed her a scholarship with Division I’s Bowling Green University.
Forward: Morgan Sherwood (CHS Class of 2016): It’s impossible to keep someone who finished her career with 1,876 points and 907 rebounds off this list. Sherwood (above) is Charleston’s all-time leading scorer and the runner-up in all-time rebounds. Sherwood also ranks third all-time with 282 career assists and second all-time with 242 career steals. Sherwood’s 587 points in a season were once a school record. Sherwood helped Charleston secure its first Regional championship in 21 years. Sherwood played at Division II’s Southern Indiana University.
Guard: Megan O’Dell (CHS Class of 2012): O’Dell played on two 20-win seasons before the decade started, but she was also the team’s go-to scorer during two losing campaigns. O’Dell may potentially have been the second-best outside shooter the county has ever seen. She finished as the state’s runner-up in the IHSA Three-Point Shootout. For her career, O’Dell finished with 1,119 career points, and was the school’s all-time 3-point shooter and single-season 3-point record holder – until Swango broke those marks.
Forward: Mallory Ramage (MHS Class of 2022): Ramage is on this All-Decade list and then likely will be on the next one, too. The only reason Ramage is not a starter is that she has only played two seasons, so far – even though her accomplishments are already quite impressive. Ramage is a complete player who finished as an All-State selection from Mattoon’s 2019 team that won the Apollo and Regional titles in finishing 27-4. She finished as the school’s single season points scoring record holder as well. Throw in her ability to score, rebound, pass, and steal – look for Ramage’s name on the next All-Decade team as a starter and for her stats to steadily climb when basketball finally starts up.
Guard: Dakota Crowder: (CHS Class of 2016): This was a really hard toss-up. Just like Jackson and Thompson were big reasons for a four-year successful tenure at Mattoon, Crowder was a big part in helping turn Charleston’s program into a contender. Crowder finished with 288 career assists and just over 800 career points. However, her ability to play defense and take charges stood out as well. Crowder played at Lake land College two two years.
Apologies: Bella Coffey (MHS Class of 2018): Coffey played roles on two 20-win seasons for Mattoon and was an All-Apollo selection during Mattoon’s 30-win season. Coffey then suffered through a 10-19 season right after that, where she might have been all-conference again had the team won a few more games. Coffey was a consistent outside shooter who didn’t rake up the career numbers compared to others, but she’s someone who should be remembered for her efforts.
One for Fun: Aislinn Parish (CHS Class of 2017): Granted, Parish has a few numbers to pop out. Parish was a First-Team All-Apollo guard her senior year, and she ranks in the top-five all-time for assists and steals. Parish’s career assists and steals were just seven and three off, respectively, from reaching another pretty good player in former Lake Land guard-turned basketball coach Haley Sparks. However, who could forget how much Parish smiled on the court? Taking a charge, making a hard drive, or receiving criticism from coaches, Parish would look at every situation with a smile. To her, basketball was just fun.