By Joe Gisondi

I don’t really know Mallory Ramage even though I have chatted with her briefly after several games during the past three years.

And even though I have written about her dozens of times, edited far more than that many stories about her by our writers, and watched her play in person at least 10-15 times.

I know that she is among the state’s best basketball players, that she has broken the Mattoon High girls career scoring record, that she will play basketball at Loyola of Chicago, that she surpassed 2,000 career points last night and, subsequently, earned the Mattoon Holiday tournament MVP award after averaging 24.8 points and 6.8 rebounds across five games.

But I’ve been around sports media (and this earth) long enough to realize one rarely glimpses another’s true self.

Still, I do think I might have discerned at least something about the area’s best basketball player – she’s humble, and teammates really like her. The feeling, it appears, is mutual.

After Mallory had scored 30 points to help lead Mattoon to the Holiday Tourney championship last night, Mattoon’s Chloe Pruitt and Faith Niebrugge praised the 5-foot-10 senior guard.

Why is Mallory such a good player? “Honestly, all the work she puts in on the court,” Pruitt said. “She’s always in the gym shooting like every day. She works so hard, and I’m really proud of her.”

Said Niebrugge: “She’s always been working on her passion, basically. She just practices and practices, and she really deserves this. She works for what she does.”

Mattoon coach Amanda Aydt was also effusive after last night’s game.

“She’s such a good basketball player, and a funny person as well. She understands the game. You know, she can create shots. She knows when to attack the basket, when to pull up and shoot. She’s a great passer as well. She can find her open teammates. She rebounds, praises fellow defenders – you know she supports everybody a lot out there. She does. In everything.”

When Mallory’s teammates were named to the all-tourney team after the game, the MHS senior might have been the loudest and most animated. Her eyes widened and she leaped up cheering on the court when she heard Faith Niebrugge and Lily Ghere had been selected. The cheering by her teammates was just as loud when Mallory was later named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.

After the game, I asked Mallory what made her such a prolific scorer. Like most high school athletes, I suspected she would deflect self-praise – and she did, really. But Mallory was willing to respond to my query about her technical skills.

She did so clearly, but succinctly: “I think my ability to see the floor and see where their defenders are really helps me out, and just knowing what to do when I should pull up and when I should drive to the basket.”

No pompous, self-glossing adjectives there.

Like I said, I don’t know much personally about the athletes we cover, but, sometimes, some things are pretty clear.

Here is the complete list of all-tourney players.

MVP – Mallory Ramage, Mattoon

Lily Ghere, Mattoon

Faith Niebrugge, Mattoon

Lucy Fearday, St. Anthony

Grace Nelson, Altamont

Cayla Koehrer, Mahomet

Nicole Taylor, Mahomet

Ivie Juarez, Mahomet

Abigail Davidson, Galesburg

Kierra Kilgore, Galesburg

Kenzie Weiler, Olney

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