CHARLESTON--Even though the Charleston girl’s basketball team defeated Decatur Eisenhower by a hefty margin of 50, 76-26, on senior night Tuesday, the Trojans’ first quarter started off slow and Eisenhower tied the score by the end of the quarter.
Head coach Jeff Miller was furious after the end of the quarter, and he made sure his team came out hard in the second quarter.
“I don’t care if it’s senior night or not,” he told his Charleston squad. “You don’t want to play, I’ll find girls who want to play.”
Miller also mentioned that the team’s tough 71-61 loss to Effingham Monday took a lot out of them.
The Lady Trojans seemed to have gotten the message, starting the second quarter on a 13-0 run over the first three minutes of that quarter.
Charleston’s slow start was the second such start in a row; Monday night against Effingham, Charleston missed five layups in the first quarter and scored only 18 points in the first half.
But Tuesday was senior night, and the girls responded in a great way that created momentum for the rest of that second quarter and the game.
On Tuesday, Charleston ended the first half with 33 points, 15 more than Monday, and more made shots.
That slow first quarter for Charleston was dominated by Eisenhower’s Markesha Jackson, a six-foot junior center. She gave Charleston fits inside the lane, scoring nine points in the first.
“She shot the ball really well,” Miller said about Jackson. “She’s improved, she’s improved a lot from last year.”
From then on, Charleston, especially its three seniors, took over the game.
Freshman point guard Shae Littleford started the rally in the early part of the second. Twenty-one seconds in, she scored on a layup with an and-one free throw, her three-point play putting Charleston up 15-12.
Just over a minute later, senior Kaitlyn Coffey, who finished with 13 points, made a jumper, then 30 seconds later, she blocked a shot and Littleford made a layup on the impending fast break. To then add insult to injury, senior guard Hope Griffin got two straight steals and converted both wide open layups to make the Charleston lead 23-12. Griffin ended the game with 17.
Twenty-five seconds later, junior Elizabeth Buescher made a jumper to complete the 12-0 run, before Eisenhower’s Mahoganie Johnson Cook made a free throw.
Eisenhower’s halftime deficit was not enough for Charleston, though, as the team kept shooting the ball well, while also playing lockdown defense to hold the Lady Panthers to 10 points in the second half.
“I think we used our quickness that’s always been our strategy throughout the whole season,” Coffey said.
The third and final senior for Charleston, Paige Swango, who extended her single season three-point record from 78 to 83, had herself a big third quarter after getting less playing time in the first half, due to her getting three fouls.
She had three three-pointers in the third, with a layup off a steal as well. Swango finished with 20 points.
Both Miller and Coffey said it felt great to get the win on senior night.
“I definitely think we kinda came in expecting to win, but we started off super slow,” Coffey said. “We got too down a little bit, but we finally put it together.”
Charleston finishes its regular season with a 22-2 record.
The JV team also won big, by a final of 80-15. The team finished the season undefeated, 15-0, for the second straight season.