Story and photos by Chet Piotrowski

Charleston’s vaunted offense took a backseat to its defense Saturday morning against Effingham where the Trojans held the Hearts scoreless for more than nine minutes in a 52-36 win.

“I thought we played one of the best first halves that we played in a long time defensively and offensively,” Charleston coach Jeff Miller said. 

After the teams exchanged turnovers, Effingham’s Annie Frost followed Charleston’s Alycia Triplett with an easy bucket tying the game at 2-apiece.

The Trojans came out in a full-court press in the first half.

Charleston forwards Kat Blase and Triplett denied Effingham shooters clean looks at the basket, accounting for five blocked shots within 10 feet of the basket in the first quarter.

Trojans all-state guard Shae Littleford took advantage of the blocks, which led to eight of Charleston’s 14 first-quarter points. Littleford finished with a game-high 24 points.

“They (Kat and Alycia) were a big factor,” Miller said. “They altered people’s shots in the paint.”

Charleston’s full-court pressure challenged the young Effingham offense into bad shots during the first half.

The Trojans kept the Hearts scoreless in the second quarter until forward Taylor Armstrong took an in-bound pass next to the basket and layed it in with just 4.9 seconds left in the half. Charleston went into the intermission with a 30-7 lead.

Hannah Buescher (left) and Kat Blase (center) fight for possession of a loose ball Saturday morning.

The Hearts went on a 14-1 run to start the second half, cutting the Trojans lead to 31-22 – much of it due to Armstrong’s low post eight-point explosion.

“The third quarter I take complete blame for that,” Miller said. “We’re at our best when we’re in our full court stuff, speeding people up. I thought I’d be smart and give them a little break and we let them (Effingham) get back in the game.”

Miller said when he put his team back into the full-court pressure, the defense came alive again.

“When we put the full-court (press) back on, they started turning the ball over more. So, I’m completely at fault that third quarter,” he said. “It’s not my girls. They did exactly what I wanted them to do.”

Charleston closed out the third quarter on a 6-2 run on Triplett’s jumper, weathering the Heart’s offensive output with a 39-24 lead.

 “Kat got hurt in the third quarter, which was a bit of a factor,” Miller said.

Effingham’s Meredith Schafer led the Hearts with six of their 13 fourth-quarter points, but Charleston’s lead was too much.

“They’re one of the best coached teams in the area,” Miller said. “I’ve always said that. He took away our perimeter. They had everything to do with that. We just got back there and talked about it (during timeouts).”

Charleston remains unbeaten at 5-0, and Effingham is 2-2.

Miller smiled when mentioning the Apollo Conference standings.

“The fifth win in the Apollo,” he said. “We couldn’t be happier while beating someone on their home floor.”


CHARLESTON (52): Buescher 2 1-4 5, Triplett 4 1-2 9, Meister 0 2-2 2, Littleford 8 6-7 24, Shrader 2 0-2 5, Blase 3 1-1 7, Herrington 0 0-0 0. Totals 17 11-18 52. 3-pointers – Littleford 2, Shrader 1.

EFFINGHAM (36): Madison Mapes 1 0-0 2, Frost 3 1-2 7, Niebrugge 1 0-0 2, Schaefer 3 4-4 11, Armstrong 7 0-0 14. Totals 15 5-6 14. 3-pointers – Schaefer 1.