By Kyle Daubs

This is where it starts to get hard. 

There are 32 teams left in the IHSA Class 3A girls basketball season, each seeking to make a run in the playoffs.

One of those teams is Mattoon, which will be traveling to the Bethalto Civic Memorial Sectional on Tuesday after having won the Mount Vernon Regional with a hard-fought win over Centralia. 

Mattoon will next take on Troy Triad, 31-26 winners over Highland before escaping Waterloo 55-53 in overtime in their own regional. Triad won its first regional championship since 1984. 

Triad had trailed by as much as 43-29 with 2:29 left in the third quarter. Playing at host Waterloo, it wasn’t looking good, but Triad closed the game with a 26-10 run to steal the win over Waterloo, which ended its season 25-7. 

Triad (22-9) is led by three of the most decorated soccer players in school history. Twins Reagan and Kendall Chigas scored 15 and 14 points each, while Avery Bohnenstiehl added 12. The Chigas twins spent last season splitting goalkeeping duties for a 24-0-1 squad that won the school’s third state title in girls soccer. Reagan is heading to the University of Illinois-Springfield, Kendall is going to Illinois College, while Bohnenstiehl will continue on at Truman State University.

This could potentially be the most athletic team that Mattoon has played this season. 

Although Mattoon features its own dynamic soccer players.

Lily Ghere scored 39 goals and recorded 27 assists, eclipsing the MHS single-season assist mark. She scored in all except three of the Green Wave’s 19 games.

Faith Niebrugge earned all-sectional honors after breaking her own single-season scoring record with 43 goals last season. As a junior she also broke the MHS career scoring record with 78 goals.  

But, who cares?

Every team is going to be like that right now. Fans knows that only the best teams remain and upsets happen all the time. 

Ask Peoria High School, once ranked the No. 1 ranked team in Class 3A, who scored six points in the first half of the regional championship in a 31-27 loss to No. 2 Morton. 

This is playoff basketball. 

At this point, all the teams left are either 2-0 or 3-0. 

It’s all about focus and where your head is at and that is why there should be a strong belief around this Mattoon team, ranked No. 5 by MaxPreps. Triad is ranked No. 24 while potential sectional championship opponent Bethalto Memorial is No. 3.

Fans may not like it when MHS coach Amanda Aydt focuses on the same things after games, but it’s the message this team has been living all season – pride in a team filled with players who are joy to coach because they listen, are coachable, have great attitudes and have fun playing together.

How many times have you read those words in comments this year?

If you have watched this team play, especially down the stretch, you’ll know those words accurately describe this team. Mattoon has remained focused all year, which is why the Green Wave are Apollo Conference and regional champions as well as state-ranked. 

They have lived this mantra for months, so why would it stop now with the Sweet 16 on the line?