Story and photos by Chet Piotrowski Jr.

Mattoon’s senior Christian Larson did everything he could up to and including willing the Green Wave to win on senior night against Charleston Thursday evening. It just wasn’t enough.

Without fellow senior Blaine Powers who was sidelined with an injury, the senior pumped in 23 points leading all scorers, from the arc and pounding out space to make room to shoot down in the paint, but the Green Wave fell to the Trojans in overtime, 49-43.

Mattoon falls to 7-24 and play Saturday evening against Decatur Eisenhower in the regional quarterfinals , while Charleston goes to 13-14 and plays Mt. Zion Wednesday evening in the regional semifinals.

“I was hot early,” Larson said. “by the second quarter the team started to come alive a little it,” Larson said,who was responsible for 14 of the Green Wave’s 16 first half points.

Stringing four quarters in row has been a thorn in the Green Wave’s side all season and it was evident against Charleston with Mattoon scoring 5 points followed by two great quarters, then just 8 and then 5 in overtime.

“That’s been a problem all season,” he said.

Charleston’s Caleb Oakley stepped up again leading the Trojans with 22 points with James Hess and Will Applegate out with injuries of their own. Oakley did most of the overtime damage for Charleston, scoring six points, all on free throws.

“We just got down early,” Larson said of the the Green Wave’s overtime woes. “We missed some shots at the end. One missed shot is never going to lose a game. We had so many opportunities throughout the game though to get ahead and a lead…”

Green Wave senior Taerick Grace said he believes the team, while doing okay rebounding against Charleston, struggle at it.

“I think our struggle is with rebounding,” Sometimes we don’t box out we don’t see the man because we we’re playing help side. I think we did pretty decent rebounding tonight, but we could’ve done better throughout this game.”

Powers’ leadership was missed on the court.

“Blaine’s a really good player,” he said. “He works the ball around and facilitates the offense. Missing him has definitely hurt us these past couple of games. As a team we need to adapt better. We probably played well (in the loss) to T-town, but tonight was probably a step back.”

Grace said Powers’ ability to move the offense and be another threat was missed.

“It hurt a lot,” Grace said. “He’s a really great point guard who would’ve been able to facilitate and knock down some threes. He would’ve been a threat. Blaine’s a leader. Whenever he’s on the floor we go hard all the time. We try our best, but tonight we just couldn’t pull it out.”

Larson teared up reflecting on his time playing Green Wave basketball.

He said his two favorite moments were the team dinners and winning the Litchfield tournament last year.

“It flew by way too fast,” he said. “I gave it my all. I can say that proudly. Man, just time flies. COVID messed up some of that but the past four years went by really fast.”

CHARLESTON – Dunklin 3 0-0 6, Bonnstetter 3 0-2 6, Sipes 0 3-4 3, King 4 2-3 10, T. Oakley 0 2-2 2, C. Oakley 5 10-12 22. 3-pointers: C. Oakley 2. Totals: 15 17-23 49.

MATTOON – Boyer 1 0-0 3, Helms 0 1-2 1, Gardner 1 3-4 6, Jean 1 2-3 4, Larson 8 5-5 23, Grace 2 2-5 6. 3-pointers Boyer 1, Gardner, Larson 2. Totals: 23 13-19 43.

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