Story by Will Simmons and photos by Dominic Baima
Charleston completed a season sweep of Mattoon on Friday night at Baker Gym with a strong defensive performance, and an offense that kept firing when it mattered.
Mattoon (14-17, 4-8) had a couple big blocks around the basket from Mattoon’s 6-foot-5 senior Jaylen Middleton to start the game, but Charleston’s defense held the Green Wave to just one field goal while scoring 11 points in the opening quarter en route to a 59-44 victory on Senior Night.
The Trojans were also able to keep Mattoon’s 6-foot-8 senior Sam Bradbury from scoring a field goal – sending him to the line three times where he scored all of his four points.
Charleston coach Cody Drone said focusing on Bradbury under the basket was definitely a priority.
“Sam’s a great player,” Drone said. “Luckily, our game plan worked.”
The Green Wave, who trailed 26-14, seemed revitalized to open the second half, blocking multiple attempts under the basket while hitting a 3-pointer and two baskets. Junior point guard Blaine Powers cut in from the right wing to lay it in, then Mattoon senior Cooper Bergstrom followed his teammate’s lead working his way through traffic for two points in the paint.
However, it was a clever play from Mattoon guard Christian Larsen that brought the Green Wave to within 32-29 when he leaned into Charleston’s William Applegate, who had leaped in the air to attempt to block a 3-pointer. Larsen subsequently hit all hitting all of his free throws.
Trojan shooting guard Grady Smitley countered with what Drone called “one of the bigger shots of the entire year” – a step-back 3-pointer to end the third quarter that swung the momentum and gave Charleston a 35-29 entering the final quarter.
“I figured I’d give him a pump fake, step back and, luckily, hit the shot,” Smitley said, “and that was good – kind of a crowd silencer. So it was good.”
The Trojans’ Jackson Burgess, in foul trouble with three in the first half, scored all of his nine points in the fourth quarter, solidifying the win for Charleston (18-10).
The Trojans, who won just two games last season, finished second in the Apollo Conference with an 8-4 record in Drone’s first season. CHS is also within two games of its first 20-win season in nearly two decades.
Charleston next faces Springfield Southeast (20-8) in the Class 3A Decatur Regional at MacArthur High School for a semifinal game Wednesday. Mattoon faces Decatur Eisenhower in a play-in game against Eisenhower today at 1 p.m.
Additional photos from this game are available here.
CHARLESTON: Smitley 2 6-8 12, Pankey 1 0-0 2, Applegate 2 1-2 6, 3 5-6 11, Becker 1 0-0 2, Braun 1 0-1 12, Oakley 4 304 14. Totals 19 15-21 59. 3-pointers – Oakley 3, Smitley 2, Applegate 1.
MATTOON: Larson 2 11-11 17, Grace 3 0-0 6, Powers 4 0-0 9, Bergstrom 1 0-0 2, Middleton 1 0-0 3, Kirts 1 0-0 3, Bradbury 0 4-6 4. Totals 12 15-17 44. 3-pointers 2, Middleton 1, Powers 1, Kirts 1.