Photos and story by Pilar Barrio Sanchez
A block by Alycia Triplett and a buzzer beater by Shae Littleford capped Charleston girls basketball’s wild, exciting victory over Mattoon, 52-50, early Saturday afternoon.
The rivalry game had nothing to do with the one played seven days ago – a 68-46 Charleston victory.
With 30 seconds left on the shot clock and the score tied at 50, Mallory Ramage had the ball in her hands, trying to hand Charleston its first loss of the season.
The gym was mostly empty because of COVID-19 restrictions. But the fans that were present made sure they were as loud as possible to try and distract Ramage.
The Trojans players on the court, meanwhile, felt pressure as well, not wanting to foul Ramage and send her to the free-throw line and defending without Katarina Blase, who had fouled out after snagging nine rebounds.
After dribbling for about 17 seconds, Ramage decided to start the attack. She dribbled fast at Littleford, then dribbled left where Charleston’s Hannah Buescher popped out, which forced Ramage to dribble inside.
Ramage dribbling to the rim. In that moment ,Triplett moved in and blocked the shot, grabbed the rebound and quickly tossed a long pass to Littleford who was running at midcourt.
“I looked at the clock with like 2.5 and I was like: I gotta go!” Littleford said.
The Trojans senior then dribbled toward the basket with several Mattoon defenders chasing her.
Littleford was able to release the shot with .5 seconds left to beat the buzzer, and the ball fell through the basket soon after.
“At first, I didn’t know if it did go in or if we beat the clock,” Littleford said. “But when everyone was running out I was like, ‘We did it, we beat them, we survived.’ ”
Littleford finished the game with 17 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 1 steal. She is now 24 points shy of becoming CHS’s girls basketball’s all-time scoring leader heading into Monday night’s home game against Taylorville.
“It is a really cool accomplishment, and I am thankful to be able to get there if we continue to play,” Littleford said. “I am just thankful to be playing. We have a great team and we are 10-0.”
Triplett finished with 12 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and 1 block.
It was not an easy start for the Trojans. After beating Mattoon by 22 points one week ago, the Green Wave (5-5) came out intense with a game plan that did not allow Charleston (10-0) to run the floor.
Mattoon was leading 20-10 at the end of the first quarter and went ahead 22-10 at the start of the second quarter before Charleston scored six straight points.
“It was the typical Mattoon-Charleston game: anything can go,” Charleston coach Jeff Miller said. “This was their fourth game of the week and they brought so much energy in that first quarter.”
However, the second quarter was completely different. Charleston was able to match Mattoon’s energy, going on a 14-2 run to tie the score at 24 by halftime.
Blae and Triplett were really important for the Trojans in the second quarter where they started to dominate in the paint.
Blase finished with 10 points, along with the 9 rebounds and 1 block.
Charleston went on an early 6-0 run in the third quarter with two big plays from Triplett, including a Euro-step lay-up.
Mattoon was able to stay in the game with a 3-pointer by Delainey Bryant, four points by Chloe Pruitt and a big play by Ramage at the end of the quarter that narrowed MHS’s deficit to 41-38.
Charleston’s Delainey Meister countered with three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, including two quick shots that put Charleston ahead 47-41 with six minutes left in the game.
However, Ramage who finished with 27 points, provoked constant fouls on Charleston’s defense that both put the Green Wave in a bonus for free throws and sent Blase out of the game.
With three minutes left in the game, the Trojans led 47-46. After a blocked shot by Pruitt, Ramage scored a three-pointer that gave Mattoon the lead for the first time since the first quarter, 48-47.
A minute later, another 3-pointer by Meister put Charleston ahead, 50-49.
The ball was again in Ramage’s hands, who got fouled attempting a 3-pointer. She made one of the three free-throw attempts to tie the score at 50, leading the the wild final minute.
“I am getting too old,” Jeff Miller said. “I don’t know if my heart can take many more games like this.”
MATTOON: Bryant 6 0-0 13, Ghere 1 0-0 2, Pruitt 2 2-2 6, Niebrugge 1 0-0 2, Ramage 8 7-11 27, Haldorsen 0 0-0 0, Haacke 0 0-0 0, Greeson 0 0-0 0. Totals 18 9-13 50. 3-pointers – Ramage 4, Bryant 1.
CHARLESTON: Buescher 1 2-4 4, Triplett 6 0-1 12, Meister 3 0-0 9, Littleford 6 2-2 17, Shrader 0 0-0 0, Blase 5 0-1 10. Totals 21 4-8 52. 3-pointers – Meister 3, Littleford 3.