Both teams own blowout wins over each other. Mount Zion blasted Charleston 64-44 in the Paris Thanksgiving Tournament, but Charleston claimed the 71-51 win at home in the Apollo Conference opener. With both teams, 1-1 against each other, Charleston will get a chance to take the season series in Round 3.

Here is the preview of tonight’s game. 

Team Records: Charleston (11-6, 5-1) @ Mount Zion (13-4, 2-3)

Where: Mount Zion High School

Tickets: Tickets can be purchased at MHS Gym. 

School Size: Charleston (796), Mt. Zion (763)

JV Tip-Off: no game

Varsity Tip-Off: 6 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 contests. 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 contest to Effingham. Mount Zion is coming off a 67-48 win at Mattoon on Tuesday. 

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. 

“#22 (Ethan Hamrick) is a quick ball handler that can score in a variety of ways good penetrator and passer,” said Drone. “#25 (Carson Cuddy) is big, and has size and length with athleticism and shooting prowess. He defends the rim well. They have three to four young players who are freshmen that can all shoot, drive, and defend. I have been very impressed with their development this year. They also get better in each varsity game.”

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

Charleston’s Past Results: Charleston has not played since taking down Mattoon on road 53-46. Charleston claimed the last victory over Mount Zion, where the Trojans won by 20 points at home. 

“To beat them, we have to handle their on-ball pressure and attack it with basket cuts, back doors, and off-ball screens,” said Drone. “Get the ball inside and play inside out. We are at our best when we get post touches and lanes touches. Defense in transition will be key as well. A broken record here but not allowing dribble penetration and when needed our help-side rotations will need to be quick on their dribble drives.”

Charleston’s Team Stats:  Charleston is averaging 57.0 points per game and allowing 54.3 points per game. Jaksen Braun led Charleston with 14 points, while Caleb Oakley added 10 points. Grady Smitley nearly hit double-digits with nine points as William Applegate was limited to six points. 

What Mount Zion Said: “We will need to hold our own on the defensive glass and then also get consistent high-quality shots,” said Schuring. “I think Braun and Smitley will be key players for us to keep a close watch.”

What Charleston Said: “Both teams are playing well and both of us play similarly to one another,” said Drone. “Man defense, drive and kick motion offense, it will come down to who can get more stops on defense. Overall, they are solid with nine guys that can all score and defend. We will need to be our best on both sides of the floor to beat them. It will be a tough rubber match against two good ball teams.”