Story and photos by Chet Piotrowski Jr.
Mattoon came out in the first half playing uninspired basketball as Teutopolis built a 23-point halftime lead at the 2022 St. Anthony Thanksgiving Tournament Friday evening.
The Green Wave, though, came out for the second half with a sense of ‘joie de vivre,’ holding the Wooden Shoes to that same amount for the entirety of the half – and they learned something about themselves as they ran out of time in a 63-55 loss.
“We really came together that second,” Mattoon’s Christian Larson said. “We really played more composed and kind of gave it right back to them in the second half. We just gave up too much to start the game.”
Teutopolis had knocked down a pair from beyond the arc by Caleb Bloemer, and James Niebrugge to take a 12-0 lead, eliciting a timeout from the Green Wave bench. Five minutes into the game, Mattoon found themselves in a 16-1 hole. Teutopolis’ massive halftime lead was due in large part to great perimeter shooting – the Wooden Shoes nailed seven 3-pointers.
Mattoon had seen enough going into halftime.
“We had nothing to lose to T-town down by 20-plus and our head coach is gone,” Larson said referencing varsity head coach Brandon Jones, who was sick. “We just came out and decided to have some fun.”
The Green Wave were the ones with the hands in the air. Blaine Powers intercepted a pass, a mistake he himself committed in the first half, and raced down the court. Even though the Green Wave didn’t score on the play, it set off a rally that was propelled by two displays of emotion from Taerick Grace and Jace Gardner.
“Especially in the first half, there was zero emotion,” Mattoon varsity assistant coach Jordan Coleman said. “It was getting handed to us.”
Mattoon chipped away.
Bryce Jean made a steal, initiating a fast break in which Larson was tripped and awarded two free throws. He made both.
Teutopolis varsity head coach Chet Reeder called a timeout 25 seconds after Larson’s free throws.
The Green Wave held the Wooden Shoes scoreless the last two minutes of the game outscoring Teutopolis 5-0, punctuated by Powers’ end of game buzzer-beating shot.
“First half, the pressure was getting to us and as soon as we got any sort of opening, we chucked it,” Coleman said. “The second half we were passing the ball around, setting screens, dragging and kicking – doing all the things we should do.”
Had the Green Wave had another four minutes, the game’s outcome might have been different.
“We were pretty rattled to start the game,” Larson said. “As the game went on, we settled in, but we just gave up too much to start the game.”
Larson said the team just got back to basics.
“We did more simple plays and just played basketball – backcuts, screens, ran the flex the way we wanted to,” he said.
“It’s huge for our boys,” Coleman said. “We talked about adversity in the beginning of the day, a little bit in the first quarter and at halftime. Our head coach isn’t here – that’s adversity. We’re 0-2. We play T-town in Effingham so it’s basically a home game for them. That’s a lot of adversity. I told them there’s two things you can do, there’s two roads you can take, and they took the road they should take.”
It may not have been a win, but it sure felt like one.
“I think we realized if we play with confidence and play strong we were a different team.” he said. “We were a different team in the second half than we were all week.”
Powers 4 4-4 13, Gardner 1 3-6 6, Jean 1 0-0 2, Wetzel 3 2-2 11, Larson 0 2-2 2, Grace 6 6 4-5 17, Smith 2 0-0 5. Totals: 17 15-19 55. 3-pointers: Powers 1, Gardner 2, Wetzel 2, Smith 1.
B. Niebrugge 5 0-1 14, Bloemer 1 1-2 4, Addis 2 2-5 7, Z. Niebrugge 0 0-1 0, Roepke 0 1-2 1, Jo. Niebrugge 1 0-0 2, Koester 0 0-1 0, Ja. Niebrugge 8 1-2 19, Pruemer 1 0-3 2, Siemer 7 0-1 14. Totals: 22 5-18 63. 3-pointers: B. Niebrugge 4, Bloemer 1, Addis 1, Ja. Niebrugge 2.