Story and photos by Chet Piotrowski Jr.
Mattoon traveled to one-win Effingham in the hopes of finding its own first win of the season Tuesday evening.
But the Green Wave continued to struggle in finding itself, committing 10 turnovers – including four possessions in a row in the first quarter alone – in a 63-48 loss.
Mattoon falls to 0-7 (0-3 Apollo) while Effingham goes to 2-4 (2-0 Apollo).
“Things didn’t go our way that first half,” Mattoon’s Christian Larson said. “We just didn’t get out of it. Alot of turnovers, shots weren’t falling, a couple crucial fouls, but we just couldn’t get it going that first half.”
Effingham’s Logan Heil scored on the Hearts’ first two possessions giving them a 4-0 lead. Mattoon turned the ball over on its next four possessions. The Hearts didn’t take advantage of the Green Wave’s errors but rather continued to feed the 6-foot-3 senior down low outmuscling the undersized Green Wave defenders in racing out to an 8-0 lead.
Mattoon head coach Brandon Jones called a timeout while senior point guard Blaine Powers hobbled to the trainers room – only to return a few minutes later.
“Honestly, it’s a mental thing with a lot of them,” Jones said. “Just coming out of the gate. It’s trusting right now. We had a big loss. We had somebody who’s supposed to be a leader just quit on his teammates in the middle of the game. That’s just stuff … we’ve had adversity after adversity after adversity. We’ve got five people on the floor constantly giving it all they have.”
“The first half we came out scared a little bit,” he added. “Balls not going our way, couldn’t find our rhythm. I felt it coming. We started jacking up 3s again like we did against Lincoln. I told them we have to get to the basket, we have to get to the basket.”
Mattoon did not score its first basket until nearly five minutes into the first quarter on a 3-pointer by senior Jackson Helms as Effingham finished the quarter with a 10-5 lead.
“As a team we have to play better starting games,” Larson said. “We see it every game coming out not strong, but at the end we finish. At that point, it’s too late. As a team we have to focus on playing right from the beginning.”
Effingham held Mattoon to six second-quarter points. The Green Wave committed three more turnovers, getting off to another slow first half start seeing the Hearts take what proved to be an insurmountable 27-11 lead on the back of Heil’s 14 points.
“Including myself, we took a lot of quick shot 3s, for most of the game they just weren’t falling,” Larson said. “If we didn’t get behind so much, we wouldn’t have to rely on that 3-ball.”
The Green Wave cut down on the turnovers in the second half to just three, but the Hearts dropped 23 points in the fourth quarter thanks to seven points apiece by Andrew Donaldson and Garrett Wolfe. Wolfe led the Hearts with 15.
Mattoon’s Christian Larson led the Green Wave with 14 points, eight coming in the fourth quarter by playing tough against the bulkier Hearts low-post players.
Larson said the team, moving forward, needs to start the game with a sense of urgency which includes himself.
“I think as a team we need to move the ball more,” he said. “Get more looks. I say that including myself needing to work on that.”
Jones said the team is taking its lumps while learning.
“It’s a trust thing,” he said. “It’s basketball but we’re learning as we go right now and take the hits along the way.”
MATTOON: Powers 2 2-2 8, Boyer 1 0-0 2, Helms 3 3-4 10, Gardner 2 0-4 5, Wetzel 2 2-4 7, Larson 4 5-5 14, Smith 1 0-0 2. Three-pointers: Powers 2, Helms 1, Gardner 1, Wetzel 1, Larson 1. Totals: 15 12-17 48.
EFFINGHAM: Donaldson 3 2-2 9, Wolfe 5 4-4 15, Brown 1 2-2 4, Jones 2 0-0 4, Splechter 7 0-2 14, Fox 0 2-2 2. Three-pointers: Donaldson 1, Wolfe 3. Totals: 24 11-14 63.