Story and photos by Chet Piotrowski Jr.
Mattoon had the win within its grasp, but let it slip away.
Taking a three-point lead into halftime, the Green Wave came out and committed seven turnovers, 26 overall, during a 12-2 Centennial run that spanned four minutes across the third and fourth quarters when the Chargers pulled ahead for a 42-31.
“We played hard. I think we defended well in the 2-3,” Mattoon boys varsity head coach Brandon Jones said. “We knew they weren’t the best shooters in the world. The guy in the middle, number 32 (Sathvik Thatikonda) was going to be a big factor. He was, but, for the most part, we did a great job of containing him.”
The 6-foot-4 senior forward, who had a game-high 14, led the frantic comeback for the Chargers by scoring 10 of the team’s 19 fourth-quarter points.
Mattoon took a three-point lead into halftime – in part thanks to senior forward Taerick Grace, who came off the bench to score five points within 10 seconds late in the second quarter. At one point, he forced a turnover and raced downcourt for a fastbreak layup that also yielded a free-throw after drawing the foul.
But Mattoon could only score in short spurts midst their turnovers.
“I think we just couldn’t score the ball,” Jones said of the four minute lapse that saw the Green Wave see their one-point lead turn into a 11-point deficit. “Turnovers. It killed us at Lincoln. We don’t play well against that 1-2-2. We practiced it, but it speeds us up. They’re long and athletic. They got after it.”
Centennial commited 14 turnovers, but only one in the fourth quarter.
“Honestly, our scoring has been the big thing,” Jones said. “We’ve had Christian (Larson) carry us a lot in scoring. Colton (Smith) has been big. The last two to four games people have honed in on it and done their homework and seen film. Blaine (Powers) has been consistent across the board. He gives us somewhere in the 10-point range. We could’ve gone back to him more. We struggled. We just struggled to hang onto the ball. We struggled to get it where we wanted to.”
Powers led the Green Wave with 11 points, Smith had five.
“We just kinda gave up,” Mattoon senior guard Blaine Powers said. “We should’ve applied some pressure, but we sat back and let them meet us.”
Powers was off the court during a stretch of the Centennial run, in part due to Jones giving him a break.
“Coach was trying to get me a breather,” Powers said. “ I went back in the fourth and put some points on the board by attacking and getting to the line.”
Powers scored six of the Green Wave’s 10 fourth quarter points – four from free throws.
“I feel like we started sharing the ball (the second half of the season) more but that was a bit selfish there,” he said. “Our defense was solid though. We just couldn’t get any points on the board. We just tried to sit back in our zone and not let them penetrate to the middle and rim. I mean they’re not a good shooting team. We tried to let them fire up as many threes as possible. It worked until the fourth quarter and we had to go to man (defense), and it ate us up.”
Powers said they plan to keep playing hard-nosed defense and hope to turn the offense around against Effingham on Thursday.
Jones said he’s needing another player to step up to help with the offense.
“We’re not being consistent right now,” he said. “With teams honing in on Colton and Carson, we just need someone else to step up.”
CHAMPAIGN CENTENNIAL: Makabu, G. 1 2-6 4, Davis 2 0-0 4, Makabu, V. 1 0-0 2, Johnson 2 2-2 8, Thatikonda 7 0-0 14, Posey 4 2-2 10. 3-pointers: Johnson 2. Totals: 17 6-10 42.
MATTOON: Powers 3 4-4 11, Helms 1 0-0 2, Gardner 2 2-3 6, Grace 3 1-1 7, Smith 2 1-2 5. 3-pointers: Powers 1. Totals: 11 8-10 31.