Losing isn’t easy, especially when it feels like you were right there.
That felt like the theme all season for the Mattoon Green Wave girls basketball team.
Of the 16 losses this season, 10 were by six points or fewer. However, that never stopped the energy the following day.
“It was amazing,” said MHS coach Troy Haacke. “There wasn’t one practice where they showed up without energy.”
That energy and mindset were rewarded as Mattoon pulled off the upset at the Mattoon Regional – a 56-54 win over Effingham.
The 20-win Hearts team had defeated Mattoon twice during the Apollo Conference season.
It all goes back to the mindset, Haacke said.
“All season, this team just wanted to continue to get better,” said Haacke. “It could be a close loss or a tough one against Lincoln, but they always came back to practice with a positive mindset and ready to work. It just stayed that way the entire year.”
Lily Ghere was the lone starter from last year’s Sweet 16 team. She and Emma Maple combined for 44 points in the team’s win over Effingham. While Ghere might be the lone senior, Haacke said that this team has many leaders.
“They take turns,” said Haacke. “Sometimes, Ella (Conyers) brings the energy. Sometimes, it could be Teygen (Sewell). On other days, it’s Lily picking them up. It really helps each other out.”
Mattoon began the game with a 15-10 lead after the first quarter and then led by a point at halftime. The third quarter was the pivotal moment for Mattoon to begin to pull away. Maple began the half with a quick 3-point field goal and then Ghere followed with a three of her own. After a few drives to the basket by Ghere, Mattoon was in a groove. The Green Wave won the third quarter 18-14.
“Teygen was huge during that quarter,” said Haacke. “On the attempts we missed, she would come down with a board and pass it out to find some open shooters. We had some great ball movement for the first six minutes of that quarter.”
In the fourth, the Green Wave went 7 of 11 at the free-throw line, but Haacke said that Piper Sanders’ feed to Maple in the quarter was a huge momentum changer. Sanders found Maple on an outlet pass where Maple converted a layup while getting fouled.
“That put us up five points in the game,” said Haacke. “Then, the girls connected on their free throws. They tried to inbound a couple of times and then we had two enormous defensive stops. It was a heck of a game.”
Mattoon had lost to Effingham 45-40 and 50-46 during the regular season. The team had finished just 2-10 in the Apollo Conference with both wins against Charleston.
“It’s huge,” said Haacke. “We were in just about every game we played this year. It was just trying to get over the hump. There were so many times this year that we had a lead and we tried to close out, but something fell through. We finally got one.”
Tonight, Mattoon (16-16) will take on Centralia at 6 p.m. in the sectional semifinal. Highland (24-7) won the Mississippi Valley Conference with a 9-1 record.
“They have some nice size and shooters, but I told the girls that we’re battle-tested,” said Haacke. “It’s not anything different that we haven’t seen from Taylorville, Mount Zion, or Mahomet-Seymour this year. All three of those teams have the size and play man (defense). We have seen similar abilities. We know they have a lot of weapons and some quick guards, but we will just have to play defense in order to play well.”