By Mike Monahan
What a difference six weeks makes.
On Dec. 9, Mattoon scored the first 15 points en route to a 59-35 win over Effingham.
On Thursday, it was a totally different game, although the same team won as the Green Wave never led by more than 11 and held off the visiting Flaming Hearts for a 56-48 victory in an Apollo Conference girls basketball game.
“It was just 10 players out there busting their butts out there on both sides,“ said Effingham coach Jeff Schafer. “ It was just a great basketball game.”
“It was a big win,” said Mattoon coach Amanda Aydt. “Effingham is a good solid quality basketball team and they are playing really well right now.”
Mattoon led just 40-37 after a 3-pointer by Effingham’s Merdith Schaefer.
But then Mattoon’s Chloe Pruitt began a key 11-2 run over the next 3 minutes, 45 seconds. Mallory Ramage, who finished with a game-high 32 points, made two free throws and after a basket by Effingham’s Ella Niebrugge on a pass from Sawyer Althoff, a bucket by Pruitt, a 3-pointer by Ramage, a basket by Faith Niebrugge, another 3-pointer by Ramage and two free throws put the lead at 53-42 with only 1:45 remaining.
‘I thought we did a great job of getting stops when we needed to,” said Aydt. “When we communicate on defense, it makes it tough for the other team to score. We got a couple of big stops at the end, which then helped us in transition where we could get some transition baskets and extend the lead when they got it close.”
Schafer took full blame for MHS having gone on that opening-game run the first time they played.
“We were 7-0 and had won five or six using our press,” said Schafer. “I told the girls if we get behind 15-0 or 15-2 tonight (Thursday) it is not going to be my fault. At this point in the season, we have to see if that is going to work against a really good team. “
Mattoon led 33-26 when Effingham (16-8, 3-5 in the Apollo) went on a run of its own – 8-2 over the next 3:02 to move within 35-34.
“We had a chance to tie or take the lead in the fourth quarter,” said Schafer. “There was a little swing there where it looked like we might get a layup, and they (MHS) turned it into two points on their end. That gave them a two-possession cushion.”
Both teams played a zone defense with Mattoon’ full-court. Effingham had 14 turnovers to Mattoon’s 13.
Effingham held the Green Wave to 11-of-32 (.343) in the first half.
“Effingham is a really solid team,” said Aydt. “ They have a very good program. We missed some shots in the first half. I told the girls at halftime ‘You are not going to make all of the shots. You are going to miss some. They will fall. You just have to keep shooting and going up strong.’ ”
Effingham missed a chance to tie the score with two free throws with just over a minute in the third quarter. Instead, Ramage got a layup and sophomore Emily Maples made a 3-pointer on the right baseline.
“Emily Maple came off the bench and hit some big shots for us and played some great defense,” said Aydt. “I thought we did a good job in the second half of moving the ball, running our offense and looking for a good shot.”
As a result, Mattoon was 10-of-22 from the field in the second half, including 3-for-5 from beyond the 3-point line.
Ramage, who is headed to Loyola, made 11-of-25 from the field, including 2-for-6 from behind the 3-point line and 8-of-10 from the free throw line.
“I thought we did a great job on Mallory, and a couple of their other players that are not usually their scorers stepped up and made some big shots,” said Schafer. “We did a really good job of making them take a tough one (at the end of third). They did a really nice job of rebounding and kicking it out there.”
Pruitt had a team–high three blocks, while Paige Farmer was tops in assists with three and Ramage had three steals. Faith Niebrugge and Ramage led in rebounds with 12 and 10, respectively.
“Malllory Ramage did a good job of attacking the basket when she needed to and had some key baskets for us,” said Aydt. “Faith Niebrugge stepped up on defense and had some rebounds and steals. Everyone else followed her lead and picked up the intensive. I thought we played better toward the end of the third quarter when we started our run.”
Schaefer led the Hearts with 18 points, including five 3-pointers.
“I am super proud of the team,” said Schafer. “They just continue to come to work every day and get better. They left everything they had out there. Credit to their other kids that stepped up and made some huge shots. Mallory is going to get her points.”
Mattoon thwarted several runs by Effingham that would have closed the gap to 4-6 points.
“I thought we did a great job of getting stops when we needed to,” said Aydt. “When we communicate on defense, it makes it tough for the other team to score. We got a couple of big stops in the end which helped us in transition where we could get some transition baskets and extended the lead when they got it close.
Mattoon (21-2, 8-1) next plays host to Olney in a non-conference game Monday.
MATTOON: Ghere 1 0-0 3, Pruitt 3 0-0 6, Farmer 2 1-2 5, Niebrugge 1 0-1 2, Ramage 11 8-10 32, Maple 3 0-0 8, Jurka 0 0-0 0. Totals 21 9-13 56.
3-point goals: Mattoon 5-13 (.385). Ramange 2, Maple 2, Ghere 1), Effingham 6-13 (.462) Schaefer 5, Maps 1). Rebounds: Mattoon 33 (Niebrugge 12, Ramage 10), Effingham 24 (Niebrugge, Schaefer 5). Turnovers: Effingham 14, Mattoon 13. Shooting percentages: Mattoon 21-54 (.389), Effingham 17-42 (.405).
Junior varsity squeaks past Effingham
Maple ended the first half in dramatic fashion with a 3-pointer at the buzzer to lead Mattoon (9-3) to a 17-13 half-time lead. Piper Sanders made 3-for-4 shots in the final 22 seconds as the Green Wave nipped Effingham, 41-38.
The Flaming Hearts led 27-25 after three quarters and 29-2 when Mattoon took the lead for good starting with a 3-pointer by Bella Masse. Sanders made one of two free throws for a 30-29 advantage with 6:31 left.
Mattoon never trailed after that although it never led by more than five after a putback by Maple midway through the fourth that made it 36-31.
Sanders and Maple led the Green Wave with 14 and 13 points, respectively.
MATTOON: Masse 1 1-2 4, Sanders 4 6-8 14, Powers 0 0-0 0, Maple 5 0-2 13, Sewell 3 0-0 6, Wade 0 1-2 1, Lathrop 1 1-2 3, Otto 0 0-0 0. Totals 14 9-16 41. 3-point goals: Mattoon 4 (Maple 3, Masse 1)