Playing T-Town is always considered a challenge. But playing the perennial state boys basketball contender back-to-back?

That’s Mattoon task tonight thanks to blizzard conditions postponing two games.

So now Mattoon faces Teutopolis twice this week, beginning with a home game tonight before heading south for a rematch Thursday. 

The two games have major implications on the Apollo Conference standings.

After a 63-62 loss to Mahomet on Monday, Mattoon dropped to 4-3. The Wooden Shoes are 3-2. These games could determine if either team can challenge Charleston for first this season.

“Teutopolis always has a strong team and we are looking forward to a good game,” said Amanda Aydt. “We play in a very tough conference, so we know every game is important.” 

After finishing last season 25-4 with an Elite 8 appearance, T-Town was considered a favorite for the conference crown. However, the team brought back just one starter from last year – Lexie Niebrugge, the team’s leading scorer at 12 points per game. 

In a 67-56 loss last week to Charleston, Niebrugge led T-Town with 19 points. Izzy Hardiek, who averaged 4.5 points per game, finished with eight points. 

Before the season started, coach Laurie Thompson considered Mattoon the favorite to win the conference, so she expects a tough matchup tonight. 

“We are rebuilding and have some experience,” said Thompson. “Apollo accepted us as a member this year due to COVID. We are extremely excited to finally be able to play basketball.”

Mallory Ramage is coming off a 30-point performance in a loss to Mahomet. The junior is averaging 30.25 points a game over her past four games.

“We will need to play four complete quarters of team basketball,” said Aydt. “Defensively, everyone will need to do their job and make the right rotations to get stops. Offensively, we will need to run our offense and get good shots.”

Charleston boys travel to Mount Zion

It feels awfully familiar – a sort of deja almost. 

It’s been two weeks since the Charleston boys have laced up, so tonight’s game seems like a season opener. When CHS started its season last month after an extended pandemic delay, the Trojans faced the Braves.

Two weeks later – after another pandemic delay, an enforced quarantine after a Mahomet player tested positive right after their game, CHS squares off once more with Mt. Zion.

“Good to be back,” said Charleston coach Brad Oakley. “The biggest thing is to appreciate the opportunity to play.”

Oakley is slightly concerned about conditioning, but he knows there’s no time to worry about it. 

“We will have to play ourselves back into shape, which isn’t a big deal,” said Oakley. “The kids have been resilient through everything since last year. It’s just another hurdle to jump through.”

The first time around, Charleston used a 16-2 opening first quarter to run away with a 64-48 win. Jaksen Braun finished with 21 points and nine rebounds, while Sam Bickford added 24 points. As a team, Charleston shot 51% from the field. 

“Mount Zion plays a physical game, so we will need to take care of the ball and get good shots each trip down the floor.”