Story and photos by Chet Piotrowski Jr.
Mattoon’s Lily Ghere played as if she owned Senior Night.
She did, really, as the only graduating player on the team.
But she also took control of action on the floor, saving perhaps her best performance for Thursday night.
The 5-foot-7 guard,dropped 26 points in leading the Green Wave to a 56-22 win over Urbana, highlighting the night by driving down the baseline and making a reverse layup that elicited the crowd to ooh and ah.
“Oh my gosh, I’ve never done that before,” she said. “I’ve literally never done that. I don’t know how it went in. We knew it was going to be Senior Night; we just wanted to win.”
Her coach, Mattoon’s Troy Haacke, said yes reverse was impressive .
“It was beautiful,” he said. “I’m not sure if she knew she could do that.”
Haacke said she had a complete game both defensively and offensively.
“I thought she played well under control,” he said. “She had a complete game tonight. She brings some of that experience since she’s been on the varsity team for, I believe, three years now. She brings some toughness, too. Every night, she has to guard their best players and is almost always undersized. She’s done an amazing job.”
Ghere said the team just had fun.
“It was fun,” she said. “Ella knocked down all of her three-pointers which left me open. I didn’t do too hot in the first half.”
The Green Wave forced six first quarter turnovers, keeping Urbana off the scoreboard. Junior guard Ella Conyers made the Tigers pay by nailing 4 3-pointers in putting Mattoon ahead 15-0 until Urbana’s Destiny Barber started the scoring the second quarter.
Conyers responded 9 seconds after the Tigers basket with her fourth and final 3 of the night, prompting an Urbana timeout with Mattoon ahead, 18-2.
Barber led Urbana with six points while Conyers finished with 13 points.
“Our man defense is really good,” Ghere said. “We did or full court press in man and it’s really good too. Piper (Sanders) is so good at defense. She pickpockets them. She’s so fast and sneaks around and takes it. She may not score a bunch of points, but she’s the reason we score points for sure.”
The Green Wave went into the halftime break with a comfortable lead 31-7 lead.
“I felt like the second half we had more fun with it because we knew we were up by a lot of points,” Ghere said. “It was a fun night. It wasn’t a stressful game, you could say!”
Junior guard Emily Maple said the team trusts Ghere to come through for them.
Lily shoots a lot of 3s,” she said. “When we’re down, we can trust her.”
Maple credits her leadership in guiding her teammates by encouraging them to do their best with kind words.
“If we’re down in practice or not doing our best, Lily will try her best to get up and doing our hardest to beat the people we have goals to beat,” she said.
Reflecting on her time playing Green Wave basketball, Ghere said it opened up making friendships she otherwise wouldn’t have made.
“I’ve made a lot of friendships that I didn’t think I would because there are people that I’ve never talked to before because none of my best friends play basketball,” she said. “Being the only senior making junior friends was really cool. Last year with Chloe (Pruitt), Mallory (Ramage) and Paige (Farmer) – I made friends with them, too. It’s been a good experience.”
URBANA – Barber 2 2-4 6, Mboyo 2 0-0 5, Sprague 1 0-0 2, Davis 2 0-1 4, McCullough 2 0-0 5. 3-pointers: Mboyo 1, McCullough 1. Totals: 9 2-5 22.
MATTOON – Ghere 11 2-2 26, Maple 3 2-3, 9, Sanders 2 1-2 5, Lathrop 1 0-0 2, Larson 0 1-3 1, Conyers 4 1-2 13. 3-pointers: Ghere 2, Maple 1, Conyers 4.