Mattoon has been searching for an identity without their former All-Apollo center Sam Bradbury. It’s been seven games without the senior, so the initial dismay has worn off. This team has been given time to find its new groove. Tonight against Mount Zion could be their biggest opportunity to find that identity.

Here is the preview of tonight’s game. 

Team Records: Mattoon (8-8, 2-2) vs. Mt. Zion (12-4, 1-3)

Where: MHS Gym

Tickets: Tickets can be purchased at MHS Gym. 

School Size: Mattoon (926), Mt. Zion (763)

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

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

Opponent’s History: In the summer of 2019, former Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond boys basketball coach Dale Schuring was named the head coach of Mt. Zion. In his first season at Mt. Zion, the team finished 7-26. Last year, the team finished 1-14 to bring his Mt. Zion coaching total to 8-40 overall in two years. However, in 15 years as the boys’ coach of ALAH, Schuring compiled a 268-150 overall record. His tenure also included a 121-98 record in eight seasons as the girls’ basketball coach. Mount Zion’s program hasn’t had a winning season since the 2016-2017 season.

Mount Zion’s Past Results: Over Christmas break, Mount Zion won three of its four games. That included wins over Dunlap, Decatur Eisenhower, and Sterling. Once the new year came around, the Braves defeated Champaign St. Thomas More and Ridgewood, but dropped a 58-52 game to Effingham. Mount Zion has struggled in the Apollo, where it has suffered three of its four losses.

“Mt. Zion is much improved from the last two seasons,” said Mattoon coach Ryan Ghere. “It sounds like they are playing really well right now and have beaten some good teams. We will have to play well to beat them.”

Mount Zion’s Top Players: According to coaches around the league, 6-foot-3, 170-pound senior Jack Driscoll could be an All-Apollo selection. On paper, the Braves have height. The team has 6-foot-7 junior Carson Cuddy, 6-foot-6 sophomore Gage Owens and 6-foot-5 senior Ryan Clark.

“We have been significant contributions from everybody we have put on the floor so far,” said Schuring. “We have been led by Ethan Hamrick and Carson Cuddy so far. I have been impressed, and a little surprised, by how well our freshmen Sam Driscoll and Brayden Trimble have been playing and contributing.”

Mount Zion’s Team Stats: The team’s offense is averaging 61.2 points per game and allowing 53.1 points.

Mattoon’s Past Results: Mattoon has lost five of its last six games since Sam Bradbury has not played. Mattoon is coming off a 53-46 loss to Charleston last Friday. On Monday, Mattoon snapped that losing streak with a 74-60 win over Rantoul.

Mattoon’s Team Stats: Mattoon is averaging 46.0 points per game and allowing 44.1 points.

What Mount Zion Said: “The biggest difference is that this year we have a much greater ability to score,” said Schuring. “We have shot the ball well pretty much all year as a team. One of the biggest keys for us has been the tempo or pace at which the game is played.  We are better in a fast-paced game.”

What Mattoon Said: “We just need to worry about ourselves right now,” said Ghere. “We need to take care of the ball, make open shots, and defend better.  We played a lot of games in a short amount of time right now.  We just need to work to improve every night and become a better basketball team.