EFFINGHAM -- The Charleston girls’ basketball team and Effingham came into Monday’s Apollo Conference game with identical records at 7-0 overall. So, someone was going to come away with a blemish on their record on Monday.
It was going to be the team that could the other one’s defensive pressure. Both teams came into the game with the ability to score 60 to 70 points, but by the end of the game, there were only 100 combined points scored.
Still, it was Effingham who found a way to make a couple of buckets late to gain enough separation from Charleston. The Lady Trojans couldn’t make up the difference and fell to Effingham 53-47.
“Great ball game. I thought two pretty good defensive-minded teams faced off and the difference was, in the fourth quarter, (Effingham) knocked down some big shots and we didn’t,” Charleston coach Jeff Miller said. “I love our effort. For right or wrong, the effort is always there. Effingham will probably be ranked in the top 10 this year, they are that good. We have nothing to worry about and we will hopefully see them another two or three times.”
Effingham coach Jeff Shafer was pleased with how his team handled Charleston’s pressure.
“They are good. They just keep coming at you and keep coming at you. Jeff knows we are going to be pretty disciplined. He’s going to want to get to 70,” Shafer said. “I thought we did a nice job, we just needed to make our layups.”
Schafer admitted he would much rather run a half-court set, but Charleston doesn’t allow that. Even though Charleston forced Effingham to play out of its game a bit, it was the Lady Trojans who turned the ball over more. Charleston had 17 turnovers, including six in the first half, compared to 12 for Effingham.
“We pride ourselves on taking care of the basketball,” Miller said. “The last two games, we didn’t do a good job of taking care of the ball. We have to do a better job of not turning it over.”
Bernie Jackson led Charleston with 15 points and Shae Littleford added 14.
“Bernie had a heck of a game,” Miller said. “Rebounding, she did a great job on the Myers girl. I am real proud of her effort. Without Bernie, it’s an uphill battle.”
Abby Weis had 14 points and Aly Armstrong and Carsyn Fearday each had 10 points for Effingham.
The two teams traded buckets to start the game, but Charleston was turning the ball over too much in the opening quarter. The Lady Trojans held an 8-7 lead with 2:56 left in the quarter, but only score three more points until the second.
The Lady Trojans turned the ball over six times in the first quarter and the Flaming Hearts took advantage of the turnovers in the final 2:18 of the quarter. Effingham went on a 10-0 run and took a 17-8 lead. A three by Charleston cut it to 17-11 going into the second quarter.
Both teams struggled offensively throughout the second quarter. The Lady Trojans had four turnovers and Effingham only had one, but the Flaming Hearts had trouble making baskets. Effingham was held to six points in the second quarter and Charleston took advantage in the final 1:05 of the half.
Paige Swango hit a runner and Jackson hit two free throws. Then Jackson grabbed a rebound with time running out in the half and passed down the court to Littleford, who made the layup right before the buzzer to cut Effingham’s lead to 23-20 at the half.
“The run helped us with momentum going into the second half,” Miller said. “We didn’t make many shots all night.”
The game remained tight in the third quarter and Effingham had a 28-25 lead when Miranda Fox and Fearday Effingham go on an 8-3 run to go up 36-28. Littleford hit a three to make it 36-31 going into the fourth quarter.
Charleston came back and made it a one point game with five straight free throws, but the Lady Trojans had a lane violation that wiped out a free throw that would’ve tied the game with 3:21 left.
Armstrong and Weis hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give Effingham a cushion at 46-39.
“I thought Carsyn was forcing it a touch and we ran the play where if she doesn’t have the layup, we hit Aly and she knocked it down,” Shafer said. “That’s the first time I felt (comfortable). It was the spark we needed. Abby hits the next shot and she gives us that extra shooter and ball-handler.”
Charleston cut it to 48-44 with 1:00 left when Effingham made its free throws and held on for a 53-47 win.
“I was proud of the girls’ effort,” Miller said. “I told them this would be a game of runs and it’s the team that weathers the storm that comes out on top. (Monday), it was Effingham that weathered the storm.”