Even before Mattoon rallied to beat Taylorville on Tuesday night, the Green Wave had vaulted to MaxPreps’ No. 1 ranking among Illinois high school girls basketball teams.
The routs of both Effingham and ALAH enabled Mattoon to earn a 14.1 in strength of schedule, best in total score and third-best improvement among state-ranked teams. Only No. 19 Quincy Notre Dame (8-0, +39) and No. 17 Winnebago (10-0, +13) improved more.
Unlike state polls, the MaxPreps rankings rely on data, such as quality wins vs. higher-ranked teams and strength of schedule.
Mattoon (8-1) nearly slipped, though, during Tuesday’s game against lower-ranked Taylorville (3-4, 1-3).
The Green Wave trailed by six points with 1 minute, 17 seconds left.
By three with 47 seconds remaining.
And by one point with 4 seconds to go.
A combination of tight defense, solid follow-up rebounding and horrific free-throw shooting by Taylorville enabled Mattoon to battle back. Mallory Ramage sank two free throws after getting fouled on a layup to give the Green Wave a 49-48 victory over the visiting Tornadoes.
“We never gave up and played hard the entire game,” MHS coach Amanda Aydt said. “We found a way to win.”
Behind 48-42 with 77 seconds left, Mattoon chipped away. Lily Ghere snagged a rebound off a missed Taylorville free throw, and Ramage subsequently took a pass from Chloe Pruitt to score on a layup tome within four points.
Ghere, fouled after making a steal on the ensuing possession, made the front end of a one-and-one to make it 48-45.
Taylorville followed by missing the front end of its own one-and-one, the second of four free throws the team would fail to convert in the final 1:17.
Mattoon then grabbed two rebounds off errant shots – Faith Niebrugge off a missed 3-pointer and Ramage on her own 3-point attempt near the free-throw line, where she popped in a jumper to cut the deficit to 48-47 with 18 seconds to go.
The Green Wave were subsequently forced to foul, but Taylorville missed two more free throws.
Ramage then once again snared another offensive rebound, getting fouled while snaring her own missed layup. The senior sank both shots to give Mattoon a 49-48 lead.
Taylorville could not muster a final shot against a tenacious MHS defensive effort.
“Lily had a big rebound, a great steal and a key free throw toward the end,” Aydt said. “Faith came out of nowhere to keep the ball alive and got an impressive offensive rebound. Mallory made her shots when we needed them most. Mallory is so good under pressure. She kept her composure when she sank those those two free throws at the end. Everyone played great defense at the end to get a stop to win the game.”
Mattoon remains undefeated in three Apollo Conference games.
Ramage scored a game-high 19 points while Pruitt added 11.
MATTOON: Ghere 0 3-6 3, Maple 2 0-0 4, Pruitt 4 2-6 11, Jurka 0 2-4 2, Farmer 3 0-0 6, Niebrugge 2 0-1 4, Ramage 6 4-5 19. Totals 17 11-22 49. 3-pointers – Ramage 3, Pruitt 1.