Lily Ghere never wavered.
It didn’t matter that she had missed five straight 3-point shots to start the game. She knew she had the green light to keep shooting.
“My teammates kept telling me to shoot,” said Ghere. “They said it would fall in the second half, so it gave me confidence.”
Trailing 38-36 going into the final quarter, it was Ghere’s 3-pointer that sent Mattoon back up on top in the fourth quarter. With the Bulldogs narrowing in on star guard Mallory Ramage, who made only one fourth-quarter field goal, it was Ghere’s three made baskets and seven fourth-quarter points that helped No. 1 ranked Mattoon hold off No. 11 ranked Mahomet-Seymour in the final round of pool play 52-49.
The Bulldogs forced the Green Wave into multiple turnovers with what appeared to be a box and one full-court press all game. Mahomet’s Cayla Koerner smothered Ramage on defense, but Ramage still managed to lead all scorers with 24 points.
Once the Green Wave were able to crack the press, the nerves and the lead were safe.
“The girls have confidence in themselves,” said coach Amanda Aydt. “Everyone can handle the ball. Once they started believing, they were able to handle the pressure and find an open person. Mahomet is a very good team. They are solid at every position and just good all around.”
With that said, it seemed like Ramage never was given a clear opportunity to shoot, which is why Ghere’s 17 points came up huge in a game that saw only four Wave players score.
“It was a lot of pressure because it’s usually Mallory stepping up and hitting the big shots,” said Ghere. “It felt pretty good to make them when it counted.”
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For Aydt, watching this is nothing new. Having a Division I prospect on the team is nice, but Aydt said that her team is very well-rounded.
“The girls have confidence in themselves and each other,” said Aydt. “Faith (Niebrugge) does a little bit of everything. She gives 100%, gets deflections, steals, and rebounds. She seems to always be in the right position on defense to force turnovers. Lilly did a great job of handling the ball for us at times and finding the open person. Mallory had another outstanding game as well.”
In a battle of two top state-ranked teams, it was everything you would have expected.
The Bulldogs had Mattoon on the hinges of defeat. With Mattoon leading 48-47, Nicole Taylor charged into the lane with a layup attempt only to see the ball roll off the rim with under 52 seconds to play.
After both teams traded baskets, it was Mattoon that held onto the ball as the Bulldogs fouled the Green Wave four consecutive times without making a turnover. It was then Ramage who was fouled with 1.4 seconds, where she connected on both free throws to cement the win.
“There wasn’t one play that you could have looked back on differently,” said Mahomet-Seymour coach Garrett Risley. “I’m just happy that the moment wasn’t too big for them and we had a shot in the end. We had a couple of loose balls, a defensive misccomunication, and a couple of other things that could have gone the other way. It’s a learning experience that we will need to have in a quick turnaround.”
Mattoon and Mahomet-Seymour will get a chance to run it back tonight at 7:30. Mattoon defeated Olney 73-28 to move onto the championship, while the Bulldogs narrowly escaped Galesbrug 39-34. Mahomet kept Galesburg scoreless the final 2:10 of the game, as well as held the Silver Streaks to one field goal the final 3:52 of the game.
Mattoon’s win over Mahomet-Seymour counted towards the Apollo Conference standings, which will save the Bulldogs a trip back down to Mattoon since the two teams were in the same pool. Now, the Bulldogs can look to take a championship as revenge.
“We have played Taylorville, who is one of the most underrated teams in the Apollo but in terms of complete teams, Mattoon is one of the best,” said Risley. “Mallory deserved a lot of credit for everything she does. She is a special player, but her supporting cast are All-Stars in their own roles. Coach Aydt has been doing this for a long time and I have a ton of respect for her. Hopefully, we can learn from this and give ourselves another change tomorrow.”
With the win, Mattoon improved to 13-1 on the season. A win over Mahomet-Seymour would mean that the Green Wave would be back-to-back Holiday Tournament champions.
At least this time, both teams will know what to expect.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” said Ghere. “They are a really good team. This time we will somewhat know what to expect. They are big, but we have a lot of good shooting guards. Playing teams like that is more fun because they are more competitive and it shows that we are a good team.”
Mattoon 52, Mahomet 49
MATTOON: Ghere 7-0-17, Farmer 0-1-1, Ramage 8-7-24, Niebrugge 4-1-10; Totals 19-9-52
Mattoon 73, Olney 28
MATTOON: Ghere 5-1-11, Sanders 2-2-6, Pruitt 1-0-2, Jurka 3-0-6, Farmer 5-1-11, Niebrugge 4-0-8, Ramage 11-1-25, Sewell 2-0-4, Totals 33-4-73
Tuesday’s Tournament Scores
T-Town JV def. Eisenhower 61-41
Galesburg def. St. Anthony 57-33
Olney def. Altamont 53-25
Mattoon def. Mahomet-Seymour 52-49
Altamont def. T-Town JV 50-46
St. Anthony def. Eisenhower 70-31
Mattoon def. Olney 73-28
Mahomet-Seymour def. Galesburg 39-34
7th/8th Place: T-Town JV vs. Eisenhower – 3:00
5th/6th Place: Altamont vs. St. Anthony – 4:30
3rd/4th Place: Olney vs. Galesburg – 6:00
Championship: Mattoon vs. Mahomet-Seymour – 7:30