After one conference favorite came to visit, a surprise team will be making a grand entrance.

After losing their top two leading scorers from last year, Effingham hosts Mattoon with an undefeated record and four state votes. Both teams opened the conference season undefeated in what is surely going to be another battle between two competitive teams. 

Here is the preview of tonight’s game. 

Team Records: Mattoon (4-1, 1-0) @ Effingham (7-0, 1-0)

Where: Effingham High School

Tickets: Tickets can be purchased at Effingham High School

School Size: Mattoon (930), Effingham (736)

JV Tip-Off: 6:00 p.m.

Varsity Tip-Off: 7:30 p.m.

Opponent’s History: Jeff Schafer enters his 24th season coaching the girls’ team at Effingham. Before the season, he had amassed an overall record of 428-237 with eight Regional Championships, three Sectional Championships, and three trips to the Elite 8. Effingham owns only four losing seasons in the last 23 years. 

Effingham’s Past Results: Effingham opened up the season as champions of the Bob Kerans Newton High School Thanksgiving Tournament. That included wins over Dieterich, Newton, Vandalia, and Flora. After that, Effingham added non-conference wins over North Clay and Altamont. The team opened up the Apollo season with a 38-34 win over Taylorville.

“So far we have played pretty well together,” said Schafer. “This is an early-season test for both of us.  Mattoon is really good as is most of our conference.  You can’t afford too many bad nights in our conference or you will be looking up at everybody else.  Last year, I didn’t think that any team could run the table on all of the conference games, and I was wrong.  Our conference is just so hard, with so many good players and coaches in it.”  

Effingham’s Top Players: Effingham’s second-leading scorer from last year, Taylor Armstrong, graduated and now plays at Millikin. Former two-time All-Apollo selection, Annie Frost, was the team’s leading scorer last year but moved to Florida. Top scorers appear to be 5-foot-6 junior guard Ella Niebrugge, 5-foot-7 freshman guard Bria Beals, and 5-foot-6 senior guard Sawyer Althoff. 

“I just want us to go out there and play as hard as we can,” said Schafer. “We are still finding our footing. We have already lost some players due to COVID, so some younger kids got forced into action a little early, but hopefully, they will be back in time.  We play well together, We share the ball well and everyone is involved and has to be involved for us to be successful.”

Effingham’s Team Stats:  Individual stats are unavailable. In the recent IHSA rankings, Effingham received four votes to put Effingham ranked No. 14 in the state. As a team, Effingham is averaging 49.0 points per game. The team is allowing 28.5 points per game. 

Mattoon’s Past Results: Mattoon hasn’t played since its Apollo Conference opening win over Lincoln at home last week. Mattoon defeated Lincoln 61-31, a team that had defeated them 56-48 six days earlier in the Pana Thanksgiving Tournament championship. 

Mattoon’s Team Stats: In the team’s win over Lincoln, Mattoon was led by Mallory Ramage’s 30 points and nine rebounds. Lincoln had entered the game averaging 58.8 points per game but was held to 5-of-19 shooting the last seven minutes of the game. Lincoln shot 29% from the field, as well as 15.4% from the 3-point range. 

What Effingham Said: “Mattoon is very good and they do a great job of pushing the ball up the floor,” said Schafer. “Amanda does such a great job with them and has another nice team.   I feel like all of our kids have kind of taken a step forward from last year, which has given us a chance to have some success so far.  They are very coachable and play hard.”

What Mattoon Said: Coach Aydt did not respond to comment.