Story and photos by Chet Piotrowski Jr.
Mattoon, displeased after a 21-point loss at Lincoln on Saturday, forced Effingham into committing 24 turnovers en route to a 64-24 victory on Tuesday evening.
Mattoon improves to 5-2 overall and 3-1 in the Apollo Conference while Effingham, after a nine-day layoff, falls to 2-3, 0-1.
“I thought the boys played hard,” Mattoon coach Ryan Ghere said. “I thought our defense played great. Our defensive slides were really, really good. We didn’t give them many open looks. A lot of deflections and a lot of steals; it didn’t matter who we put in there. Our defense only gave up 24 points the entire game. I’ll take that any night. Offensively, we shot better than we shot the last two games. It was a good effort, balanced scoring, good rebounding and we took care of the ball better than we did Saturday. I think we improved in every facet of the game from Saturday to tonight.”
Cooper Bergstrom’s seven first-quarter points buoyed the Green Wave, who raced to a 12-4 first-quarter lead, holding Effingham to just four free throws. Bregstrom led all scorers with 15 points.
Jaylen Middleton anchored the defense with three blocks while shooting 6-for-8 from the field, including an alley-oop dunk from Bergstrom to end the third quarter, giving the Green Wave a 43-17 advantage.
“I dunk all the time in practice. Six games in and haven’t had one dunk. That got us hype. It was go-mode,” he said.
Middleton said Tuesday’s game was important.
Tonight was big,” Middleton said. “We’ve been talking all week about winning the conference. That’s our goal. So the next time Lincoln comes here, we’re hoping to give them a nice run. We had to make a statement.”
Middleton said the difference between the Lincoln game and Tuesday’s was turnovers.
“Our guards took care of the ball,” he said, noting the Green Wave had 16 turnovers at Lincoln. “We got in the gym late Sunday night to work on ball handling and getting some shots up to fix all that. You can’t win a conference title playing like we did Saturday. It’s a learning lesson.”
Ghere, who goes to MHS on Sundays to work, invited the team to work out.
“I said ‘I’ll be in Sunday night at 8 o’clock if anybody wants to come in and shoot’,” Ghere said. “We had the majority of the guys come in while others had to work. We got the gun out and they probably put up five to six hundred shots apiece Sunday night. We had bunch stick around an hour after practice Monday, too. We just have to keep working on our shot. I think shooting at home is a different ballgame, too, while being confident at home. Great crowd here tonight and I’m glad we put on a good show for them.”
Middleton said the team is grateful for Ghere opening the gym.
“That’s what coach does for us,” he said. “He’s willing to do things like that for us. We’re thankful for that. It helped a lot.”
Effingham’s Garrett Wolfe led the Hearts with 13 points on 5-for-14 shooting.
EFFINGHAM – Wolfe 5 2-2 13, Splechter 0 4-4 4, O. Fox 0 1-2 1, Hull 0 1-2 1, Pals 2 0-0 4.
3-pointers: Wolfe 1. Totals 6 9-10 24
MATTOON – Bergstrom 5 2-2 15, Helms 1 0-0 2, Middleton 6 0-0 13, Powers 0 2-2 2, Kirts 1 0-0 3, Gardner 1 0-0 2, Larson 2 1-2 8, Thompson 3 0-0 6, Grace 2 0-0 4, Wetzel 1 0-0 3, Bradbury 3 0-0 6. 3-pointers: Bergstrom 3, Middleton 1, Kirts 1, Larson 1, Wetzel 1. Totals 26 5-6 64