Story and photos by Chet Piotrowski Jr.
Most nights belong to Mattoon’s Mallory Ramage.
This night belonged to her teammate, Chloe Pruitt.
The senior forward carried the Green Wave at the basket for three quarters with 16 points while Ramage unclogged herself from double and triple teams, and had a key defensive moment, as Mattoon defeated Teutopolis on Thursday night, 50-44, in a battle of state-ranked teams.
Pruitt had an answer for Teutopolis’ advances. The 5-foot-11 senior forward responded to put the Green Wave ahead twice in the first quarter — once after a Kaitlyn Schumacher bucket that tied the game at 6, and again sinking two free throws that put Mattoon ahead 8-6 after another Schumacher bucket.
Ramage, meanwhile, reminded everyone why she’s a sharpshooter as the senior guard nailed a 3-pointer from NBA distance as the buzzer sounded to end the first quarter tied at 18. Pruitt turned to her teammate and threw out a hand for a low-five.
Late in the second quarter with Teutopolis leading by one, Pruitt bolted down the baseline towards the basket, taking a pass from a driving Faith Niebrugge, and scored to give Mattoon an 18-17 lead. That would start an 8-2 run for the Green Wave that ultimately finished with another pass to Pruitt resulting in a basket.
The Green Wave were lucky to go into the halftime break up by four, because Teutopolis couldn’t finish shots from within three feet of the basket.
Pruitt said Coach Amanda Aydt told the players they needed to play at their station.
“Coach told us we were playing below what we should have been,” Pruitt said. “She said we needed to pick it up and play like we were ahead.”
Pruitt took that to heart. She made back-to-back buckets to put Mattoon ahead 40-31 for its largest lead of the game.
“I feel like when they were focusing on Mallory they tended to lose focus on all of us,” Pruitt said. “I like to just stand in the back and see what’s going on. I’m able to see the floor a lot better when they’re focused on her and I feel like we all work together better.”
Pruitt readily admits she’s overly aggressive on the defensive post. Teutopolis opened the fourth quarter by changing tactics and driving more to the basket.
Pruitt subsequently stayed home when Shoes’ forward Kaylee Niebrugge snuck down the baseline and took a pass which, for a moment, looked wide open for an easy bucket. Pruitt, though, slid over a step and altered the shot attempt just enough for the ball to rim out.
“Coach is always yelling at me to stay down because I like to jump,” she said. “That was my focus this game — to stay down, stay straight up and so I wouldn’t get a foul. I think I did a good job of that this game and allowing my height work for me and not get in my way.”
Teutopolis went on a 6-0 run to cut the lead to two, but that rally was halted when Pruitt blocked a shot by Teutopolis’ Isabella Hardiek. The play resulted in a four-point swing as Ramage then scored on a layup, returning MHS’s lead to four. Ramage would score all of Mattoon’s nine fourth-quarter points. Teutopolis had to foul in the hopes of catching up, but Ramage made 5 of 6 free-throw attempts to seal the victory for the Green Wave.
“They have a nice team,” Teutopolis head coach Laurie Thompson said. “She (Coach Aydt) has outside shooters, a post player who’s reaping the benefits of a point guard that can dish to her and get to the ball. They’re scrappy, they play hard. She’s got a nice team, there’s no doubt. I really thought we could have won the game. I was excited for this game because it’s a quality team. Just a little frustrated that we’re not finishing like we should.”
Teutopolis’s misses in the post were costly.
“We cannot continue to shoot like that and beat good teams,” Thompson said. “And that’s what happened again. We’re getting what we want, but we’re not finishing. We’ll keep practicing it and hope it clicks. There’s great execution out there, but the final step is not there.”
Thompson said she felt her players were efficient in guarding Ramage but did not play as well against her teammates.
“I thought we did a decent job on Mallory because we even said “Mallory will get 20, let her get 20,” she said. “We have to keep everyone else under control. In the first half, we didn’t do that. They had their little guard (Niebrugge) who created a lot of shots for their inside kid (Pruitt) because we had to help so much.”
Thompson said the team is frustrated.
“They’re frustrated, I’m frustrated,” she said. “We’ll get through it. We have to get through it. If we want to beat quality teams, then we’re going to have to get through it. Defensively, I thought the second half we made some stops, but then we didn’t come down (offensively) and finish. We were within striking distance but the big shot never went in like 20 times.”
MATTOON (14-1, 4-0) – Ghere 2 0-0 5, Pruitt 7 2-2 16, Jurka 1 0-0 2, Niebrugge 1 0-0 2, Ramage 6 11-14 25. Totals: 17 13-16 50. 3-pointers: Ghere 1, Ramage 2.
TEUTOPOLIS (10-4) – Tegeler 1 2-4 4, Schumacher 6 1-4 13, Hardiek 5 3-5 14, Niebrugge 5 2-2 13. Totals: 17 8-15 44. 3-pointers: Hardiek 1, Niebrugge 1.