Story and photos by Chet Piotrowski

The Mattoon Green Wave opened their boys basketball season with a 66-44 win over Rantoul Tuesday evening at the St. Anthony Turkey Tournament.

“I thought we played really well at times and then we struggled at times,” Mattoon varsity head coach Ryan Ghere said. “They had some runs and we maintained our composure and we handled it and had runs of our own.”

Mattoon’s stingy zone defense kept Rantoul to just two baskets in the first quarter and one in the second. Eight out of the 15 Eagles’ first-half points came at the free-throw line – all in the second quarter.

“We were going man to zone to 2-3,” Mattoon senior center Sam Bradbury said. “We were just trying to stop them and slow them down. They like to run and we wanted to slow them down and make bad passes and to get whatever loose balls we could.”

Rantoul came out of the halftime break on a 7-3 run and limited Mattoon to its second consecutive quarter of just 14 points. 

Bradbury, finishing with 17 points, sat for almost half of the fourth quarter due to fouls, and two suspect charge calls.

“I feel like I played pretty well, but I could’ve cut out a few mental mistakes,” he said.

Blaine Powers came off the bench sparking a 12-4 Green Wave run with a basket and free-throw, increasing the Green Wave’s lead to 49-35 despite Bradbury’s absence. 

“I thought Blaine did a great job coming off the bench for us,” Ghere said. “He handled the ball and pressure. That’s really his first varsity time. He did a nice job. He did a nice job in the first half when Cooper was in foul trouble.”

Cooper Bergstrom capped the Mattoon win with two free throws to extend the Green Wave lead to over 20 with 1:18 left.

“I feel like as a team, the first game coming out, we did really good and showed a lot more strength than last year,” Bradbury said. “So I feel like this year we’re going to have more team chemistry.”

Ghere thought the opening-game mistakes were fixable.

“I thought the biggest thing tonight was a team effort,” Ghere said. “ In the first half, I thought Christian Lawson gave us really good minutes. In the second half, Taerick Grace came in at that same position and gave us good minutes. They may not have scored many points, but they gave us good minutes on defense. I thought we rebounded extremely well.”

Mattoon faces Highland tonight, Teutopolis on Friday evening, and play Saturday against an opponent to be determined.

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MATTOON – Bergstrom 3 4-4 11, Rice 1 2 Middleton 4 1-3 9, Powers 2 6-7 10, Larson 2 4, Thompson 3 8, Wetzel 1 1-2 4, Bradbury 6 5-9 17. 3 pointers – Bergstrom 1, Thompson 2.

RANTOUL – Williams 1 2-2 5, Mayberry 2 6, Smith 2 1-2 5, Lee 1 3,  Adkins 1 2-3 4, Caradine 1 2, Anderson 2 4-4 8, Soto 2 5, Schluter 0 0-2 0. 3-pointers – Williams 1, Mayberry 2, Smith 1, Lee 1, Soto 1.