After losing eight games in a row, Mattoon owns a two-game winning streak. If the team wants to stretch that to three, it will come with an upset win over the top team in the Apollo Conference. A road trip to Mount Zion will be a tough task for the Green Wave, but momentum can carry any team anywhere. Will the Green Wave give the Braves their first conference loss of the season in underdog fashion?
Here is tonight’s preview.
Team Records: Mattoon (2-8, 1-3) @ Mount Zion (9-1, 3-0)
Where: Mount Zion High School
Tickets: Tickets can be purchased at MHS Gym.
School Size: Mattoon (929), Mount Zion (763)
JV Tip-Off: 6:00 p.m.
Varsity Tip-Off: 7:30 p.m.
Mount Zion’s History: Dolph Stanley is the legendary coach from Taylorville’s earlier days. Stanley coached the Tornadoes to a state championship in 1945. After enduring numerous losing seasons since then, the team has turned a corner the last decade. That started with Hall of Fame coach Carey McVickers, leading the team to their last Regional Championship in 2013. McVickers retired in 2015 and former Mount Zion head coach Ryan Brown stepped in. Prior to the season, Brown was 116-90 at Taylorville. In three seasons at Mount Zion, Brown was 53-36. Last year, the team was 16-15.
Mount Zion’s Past Results: Mount Zion nearly won their Thanksgiving tournament but came up one-point short. The team started the year off with a 66-49 win over Belleville Althoff Catholic. The team followed that with a 36-27 win over Apollo rival Lincoln and a 68-46 win over Cahokia. The team lost the championship game against Belleville West 63-63. Since then, the team has rattled off five straight wins. That includes Apollo wins over Charleston (62-37) and Mahomet-Seymour (76-51). Their non-conference wins include Olney (58-51), Monticello (61-39), Champaign Centennial (60-53), and Normal West (72-57).
Mount Zion’s Top Players: The team will be led by 6-foot-8 senior forward Carson Cuddy, who should be in the conversation for First-Team All-Apollo this season. The team also has 6-foot-7 junior forward Gage Owens and 6-foot-3 junior forward Grant McAtee. Lincoln Koester and Evan Hamrick were both of the team’s top JV players last season.
Mount Zion’s Team Stats: Individual stats are not available. The Braves are averaging 62.1 points and allowing 47.3 points per game.
Mattoon’s Past Results: Mattoon is coming off a 63-57 win over Taylorville on Thursday.
Mattoon’s Team Stats: Individual stats are not available. The Green Wave are averaging 45.5 points per game and allowing 56.4 points per game.
What Mount Zion Said: “We back at full strength, barring any sickness that pops up,” said Schuring. “The challenge has been figuring out rotations and roles since they have been back. Our depth is certainly a strength of this group. This team offers a great variety of versatility. We can throw different combinations out there that have completely different skills and strengths. I equate it to a football team that has different packages within their offense and defense. We are capable of being very good but like everyone, we have areas that need improvement and areas where we have to avoid slippage from a standard.”
What Mattoon Said: “First, we have to be disciplined,” said coach Brandon Jones. “We will need to value the possession of the basketball, be aggressive, and be under control, and we will need to make them play our game. I don’t know that the game plan of stopping Carson Cuddy is something we want to approach. Instead of focusing on Mount Zion and Carson, our goal is going to be about focusing on us and what we can do. The season is far from over. We are trying to get better every day to become the best team we can be.”