Story and photos by Chet Piotrowski Jr.
Mattoon boys basketball found its doppelgänger in an equally defensive-minded Teutopolis squad on Friday evening in the St. Anthony Turkey boys basketball tournament.
Mirroring the Green Wave’s defensive prowess thus far this season, the Wooden Shoes forced the Green Wave into 20 turnovers – limiting senior center Sam Bradbury to just five points and senior forward Jaylen Middleton to three points in a 43-34 loss at the Enlow Center.
Mattoon (2-1) hasn’t beaten Teutopolis since 2014.
Mattoon next plays Effingham at 6 p.m. on Saturday in a consolation final while Teutopolis (3-0) faces Breese Central at 7:30 p.m. in the championship.
“We didn’t handle the press early very well, but, as the game went on, we handled the press but didn’t handle the half-court defense that they were playing,” Ghere said. “We had some good looks, but we couldn’t finish a couple at the end of the third and the beginning of the fourth. We had four layups we missed at a two-point game. They just took us out of all of our offensive sets.”
Down by five points in the middle of the third quarter, Middleton buried a wide-open 3-pointer from the corner to close within 26-24.
After a Wooden Shoes basket, Teutopolis’ Kayden Althoff fouled Mattoon’s Cooper Bergstrom and was subsequently assessed a technical foul while walking away. Bergstrom made both free throws to cut the deficit to 28-26.
“We worked on it. The biggest thing is their physicality and athleticism,” Ghere said. “You can’t simulate that in practice with a guy hanging all over you on the court.”
Teutopolis went on a 9-2 run in the fourth quarter, bolstered by four points from Caleb Siemer and five points from Brendan Niebrugge.
“They just played really hard,” Mattoon senior guard Cooper Bergstrom said. “They bring a lot more intensity than any of the teams we’ve faced so far. That’s just something that we have to adjust to. Thats something that we’re going to get better with as the season goes along. “
The Shoes never allowed Mattoon and Bradbury to set up in their half-court offense when they needed it the most, stifling the entry pass to the post and double-teaming the Green Wave’s guards when the ball was kicked back out.
“He was under so much pressure,” Ghere said. “He had trouble finding the man open on the opposite side of the court. That’s a hard thing for a post man to do. To catch it, turn, and skip the ball to the shooter. But when we got it to the shooters, we couldn’t knock it down. We’re not going to win many games without a post presence and knocking down one 3.”
Bergstrom thinks they need to get Bradbury the ball more quickly when in the half court.
“I think it’s getting it to him right when he’s open instead of looking at him and waiting,” he said. “We have to get it to him right when he’s open and that’ll get him more touches. And then that should get us more looks outside and better shots.”
Ghere said they were just kept off-balance the entire night.
“I’m not sure we ran one set how we wanted to all night,” Ghere said. “You have to give T-town credit for scrambling and chasing us with the ball. We couldn’t get the ball to Sam very much. At halftime, we were happy where we were down three, and our two leading scorers hadn’t scored a bucket. Then to the fourth quarter we’re only down two. It’s one of those that was a nine-point game, but wasn’t a nine-point game. We miss two layups (when we were) down two and we could’ve taken the lead. They come down to make it to five, and it snowballs from there. We have to scramble to foul. Our kids played really hard, but we just didn’t take care of the basketball. You’re not going to win when you have 20 turnovers. They only had 17 (points) at the half. Most of their points down the stretch were free throws. You have to give our kids credit, they played hard and competed.”
Ghere said they need to move Bradbury to get him involved more.
“We need to get the ball in the half court, first of all, and then our guards have to get more comfortable handling the basketball under pressure,” he said. “Then we have to run him off some screens, and have him set some screens to get open. We just couldn’t get into anything we wanted to tonight. They were just holding us all over the court. We have to be stronger and more physical.”
MATTOON – Bergstrom 3 6-8 12, Middleton 1 0-1 3, Powers 2 0-0 4, Larson 3 0-0 6, Thompson 2 0-0 4, Bradbury 2 1-2 5. Totals 13 7-11 34. 3 pointers: Middleton 1.
TEUTOPOLIS – B Niebrugge 4 0-0 10, M. Niebrugge 1 2-2 4, K. Althoff 3 2-2 9, M. Althoff 2 0-0 4, J. Niebrugge 2 0-1 4, Siemer 5 2-2 12. Totals 17 6-7 43. 3 pointers – B. Niebrugge 2, K. Althoff 1.