Story and photos by Chet Piotrowski

After not seeing much varsity time last season, Mattoon’s Emily Maple is making a big difference this season.

She is among several players replacing the seniors who went 29-3 and had led the Green Wave to within a few points of winning an IHSA sectional title last season.

Like her predecessors Mallory Ramage, Chloe Pruitt and Faith Niebrugge, Maple has been taking charge this season.

Maple sank four 3-pointers and scored 16 points Saturday in leading the Green Wave to a 65-42 win over ALAH.

The junior guard has led the team in scoring in four of Mattoon’s eight games this season.

“She is learning,” Mattoon coach Troy Haacke said. “Even in the JV games last year, Piper ran the one (as point guard) for us. She’s probably ran the one for her travel team, but there’s a learning curve for her stepping into a varsity role. It’s very important. I think she’s done a great job.”

Maple herself went on a six-point run to start the game, hitting two of her four 3s, prompting a timeout from ALAH’s bench. Three minutes later, she nailed another three. Maple accounted for 11 of the Green Wave’s 16 first-quarter points.

“She’s handled the pressure,” Haacke said. “She’s communicated. She brings energy every time, every day – practice and games. She’s unselfish. She moves the ball around to find open girls, and she can get to the basket off the dribble.”

Maple doesn’t want to make it about her, saying that not having a player the caliber of Ramage is a change.

“It’s really hard,” she said. “That’s a big loss for this team. She played a big role for Mattoon as well as the other girls like Faith and Chloe. I think we work together well. We do the best we can. We’ve played together since sixth grade. We’ve got great team chemistry.”

Junior guard Ella Conyers is stepping up as well for the Green Wave (4-4). 

Conyers was the only other MHS player who scored in the first quarter, with a layup and one of her five 3-pointers. Conyers led all scorers with 17 points. 

“We don’t just have one shooter,” Maple said. “We have three or four on the court at all times that can shoot the three and knock it down if we need it.”

Senior Lily Ghere added 15 points.

“That’s their game, that inside-outside,” Haacke said. “I feel like that’s one of our strengths. If we work together, get that open look, and run some sets to get that open shot.”

Haacke admits that they’re reliant on the 3 because Mattoon is a smaller team.

“We are a little bit reliant on the 3-point shot,” Haacke said. “We can put the ball on the floor and beat someone off the dribble. The girls can do that, too.”

Maple said the team did well passing, which contributed to the nine 3s.

“Overall, I think we did really good passing around the arc as a team,” she said. “We’re mainly a 3-point team. It’s really nice seeing all the 3s going in like today.”

Said Haacke: “I’m telling the girls that they’re so fun to watch when you play together, move the ball making the extra pass. It all starts with us with rebounding. If we can get rebounds or stops, we just fly.”

While it was nice to have someone of Ramage’s talent level on the team, players recognize this is their team – and that they will need to step up.

“Mallory was awesome and it is a big shoe to fill,” Haacke said. “This team does look a little different than what we had out there (last year). We don’t have that size. We move the ball real well. It’s not flawless yet, but it’s early. She has done a great job.”

Maple was sick for the better part of last season, but returned to get playing time near the end of the season.

“This year, I think it helps that I did a lot of stuff in the summer,” Maple said. “We’re working on the team, and that just helps overall.”

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MATTOON: Ghere 6 1-2 15, Maple 6 0-0 16, Sanders 1 0-0 2, Lathrop 0 2-2 2, Masse 1 2-2 5, Powers 0 2-2 2, Conyers 6 0-1 17, Sewell 2 2-2 6. 3-pointers: Conyers 5, Maple 4, Ghere 2. Totals: 16 6-8 65

ALAH: – M. Condill 1 0-0 2, C. Condill 3 7-10 13, C. Seal 4 4-7 12, Beachy 3 0-1 6, Rohacs 0 2-2 2, Herschberger 1 0-0 2, Otto 1 2-4 5. 3-pointers: Otto 1. Totals: 13 15-24 42.