By Kyle Daubs

Shae Littleford and Jeff Miller couldn’t go out like that. 

It just didn’t seem right that their final seasons might be taken away, ending on a somewhat sour note in March 2020.

Neither Littleford, a former All-State guard committed to the University of Tennessee-Martin, nor Miller, who has a career 233-120 record, wanted to leave Charleston after a tough 9-18 season in 2019-20. 

But about a month ago, that’s exactly what many expected, making tonight’s season opener even more special for two of CHS girls basketball’s most impactful members.

Tip off against Mahomet-Seymour is 6 tonight (Monday).

Now, Littleford will get a chance to chase down Morgan Sherwood’s 1,876 career points. The senior guard needs to score 265 points, about a 19-point average across 15 schedules games, to break the record – although CHS athletic director Derrick Zerrusen is trying to fill two open dates in March. At 1,611 points, Littleford ranks fourth on the all-time list.

Miller, who retired from teaching last year, has returned for this final season as a coach in order to bring Charleston back to its winning ways. The Trojans had won 20 games for five successive seasons before going 9-18 last season.

“We went from zero to 100 miles per hour,” said Miller. “As my old basketball coach Steve Hutton used to say, ‘The hay is in the barn.’ We have done what we can do. We have burned all our contact days from July and September. These seven mandatory practices were a refresher for us. We feel pretty good.”

Despite missing nearly half of last season, Littleford averaged 22.3 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 3.4 assists to earn a First-Team All-Apollo selection. Littleford was usually the only non-freshman on the court. When a knee injury sidelined Littleford for more than a month during the middle of the season, Miller was forced to field an all-underclassmen squad that excelled at times despite struggling to win two of 10 games during Littleford’s absence. Sophomore Alicia Triplett, among the freshmen to rise to the occasion, has attracted the attention of several NCAA Division I programs. The 5-foot-11 forward averaged 11.9 points and 7.5 rebounds last season. 

“In my opinion, Alicia should have been All-Conference last year as a freshman,” said Miller. “I think she had better stats than some of the others on the list but that’s just one of things that you have to let go.”

This time around, Triplett could be one of the few underclassmen on the floor thanks to two new additions –seniors Hannah Buescher and Katerina Blase. Buescher, who took last season off, had been a starting guard for the 29-1 team in 2018-2019. Blase hasn’t played basketball since her freshman season, focusing instead on volleyball. Blase, who committed to Parkland’s nationally ranked volleyball team, should receive serious minutes. 

“Hannah hasn’t skipped a beat,” said Miller. “She’s even gotten better than she was. Kat is going to give us some height. She can rebound and she brings such great athleticism that she is going to change some people’s shots because of her length. We’re extremely happy to have these two girls back.”

Sophomores Erin Blair, Delaney Meister, Maggie Goetten, and Shelby Herrington should receive considerable playing time, as well. 

“When you look at our sophomores, they have improved so much from last season,” said Miller. “They understand our defensive philosophy. They know that our goal is to speed people up and score a lot of points in transition. Defense is key for us. If we can play Charleston basketball, then we are going to win some games by putting some points on the board.”

Miller is excited to see his younger players work with the three seniors.

“When you start that many freshmen, the mentality is to try and put your best foot forward and do the best you can,” said Miller. “By the end of the season, that group got better. Now, you throw a couple of these new pieces in, and we get even better.”

Two freshmen should see varsity time as well – Addison Shrader and Ally Logsdon. Due to the pandemic, Charleston will play primarily a conference schedule. There is just one non-conference game, against Windsor-Stew-Stras. 

Despite a small varsity roster, Miller said the team is ready to compete for a conference title.

“We have 11 girls on the varsity roster,” said Miller. “If I walked through the school tomorrow, I couldn’t pick a better 11. We have high goals for the season despite the games. Hopefully, we can pick up a few extra games on some of our off days. We want to contend for the top of Apollo. It’s a tough league but we’re excited to be back.”

Varsity Roster

Seniors: Kat Blase, Hannah Buescher, Shae Littleford

Juniors: Kiera Campbell

Sophomores: Erin Blair, Maggie Goetten, Shelby Herrington, Delaney Meister, Alycia Triplett

Freshman: Allason Logsdon, Addison Shrader

2020-2021 Varsity Schedule

Monday2/1/2021Mahomet-SeymourHome6:00 PM
Thursday2/4/2021Mt. ZionHome6:00 PM
Monday2/8/2021TaylorvilleAway6:00 PM
Thursday2/11/2021TeutopolisAway6:00 PM
Saturday2/13/2021EffinghamAway11:00 AM
Monday2/15/2021LincolnHome6:00 PM
Thursday2/18/2021MattoonAway6:00 PM
Saturday2/20/2021Windsor/Stew StrasHome11:00 AM
Monday2/22/2021Mt. ZionAway6:00 PM
Thursday2/25/2021LincolnAway6:00 PM
Saturday2/27/2021MattoonHome11:00 AM
Monday3/1/2021TaylorvilleHome6:00 PM
Thursday3/4/2021TeutopolisHome6:00 PM
Monday3/8/2021EffinghamHome6:00 PM
Thursday3/11/2021Mahomet-SeymourAway6:00 PM