Story and photos by Chet Piotrowski Jr.
Mattoon varsity boys basketball coach Ryan Ghere had said Tuesday evening that he wanted his squad to improve upon the previous game.
The Green Wave appeared to have done so, holding another opponent to five points or less in a quarter in a 63-30 victory over Highland on Wednesday night in the St. Anthony Turkey Tournament.
Mattoon, which improves to 2-0, next plays Teutopolis on Friday to determine the Pool B champion. That winner advances to Saturday’s boys basketball championship.
“That’s as good defense as we’ve played in a long time. We have a few adjustments to make before Friday (against Teutopolis) on rotations, but we had high hands, tipped passes, steals,” Ghere said. “We were aggressive and we covered for each other. We went to a different zone in the third quarter that we haven’t played for before that we drew up at halftime just to give them a different look with a point guard, and our guys ran it really well, too.”
Senior guard Gage Thompson made consecutive 3-pointers midway through the first quarter that gave the Green Wave a 9-4 lead.
Mattoon sank six 3-pointers against Highland.
“We know they can; they do it in practice,” Ghere said. “That’s something we’ve been working on this week. Gage has been a nice addition.”
The Green Wave held the Bulldogs scoreless for nearly 5 1/2 minutes stretching into the second quarter before junior forward Joe Jansen made a jumper to cut the lead to 24-12.
Mattoon extended its lead to 34-14 at halftime.
“Defensively, we didn’t allow them a whole lot of looks,” Ghere said. “To hold a team (an opponent) to thirty points, you’re going to win a lot of games.”
Senior forward Jaylen Middleton took advantage of the Bulldogs defending teammate 6-foot-8 Sam Bradbury, scoring all 10 of his points in the first half. Highland subsequently switched defenses to guard against him, allowing Bradbury to explode for 11 third-quarter points.
Defensively, he (Jaylen) is just so long and athletic and active down there,” Ghere said. “He covers so much ground with his length. He brings a lot of things to the table that people dont see. He’s just bought into the program and being a leader this year. I cant say enough good things about him. I thought he was better tonight than he was last night. Offensively, I think he’s going to get better as the season goes onespecially when he plays off Sam (Bradbury) a bit more.”
Middleton said he just wanted to “bring the energy and lead by example.”
It’s going to keep going,” Middleton said. “That’s my guy. If Sam’s having a good game and they bring a double, then it opens more for me.”
Bradbury finished with 22 points.
“Yeah, we wanted to keep it going,” he said. “Yesterday, Sam had one of the best game’s he’s had in a long time. Thats something we wanted to keep going. If they stopped him, we knew that we had other options. We listen to coach, he knows what he’s talking about.”
Ghere said his team adjusted well to Highland’s changes in defense.
“The best thing we did today was when they changed defenses we adjusted and we scored,” he said. “When they tried to make a change we cadjusted on the fly. Sam’s going to get a lot of attention so now we need guys ready to shoot down on the perimeter.
With Highland and Rantoul both 0-2 in Pool B, Friday’s game against Teutopolis will determine who is seated in the championship game against the Pool A winner.
“Were going to have to rebound and take care of the ball,” Ghere said. “They’re going to get up on us. They’re going to play a lot harder defense than what we saw tonight. Were going to have to be strong with the ball and not let them dictate where we go with the dribble.”
Middleton said he can’t remember the last time Mattoon has beaten Teutopolis. But, he said: “We’re excited going in.”
Mattoon – Bergstrom 2 0-0 5, Boyer 1 0-0 2, Rice 1 0-0 2, Middleton 5 0-0 11, Powers 1 2-2 4, Larson 1 1-2 4, Thompson 4 1-2 12, Wetzel 0 1-2 1, Bradbury 10 2-4 22. Totals 25 7-12 63. 3-pointers: Bergstrom 1, Middleton 1, Larson 1, Thompson 3.
Highland– Ottensmeier 1 2, Gelly 3 7, Koisher 3 9, Fleming 1 2-2 4, Jansen 2 0-2 4, Mackey 1 2-2 4. Totals 11 4-6 30. 3-pointers: Gelly 1, Koisher 3.