MATTOON – Jadyn Princko just needed time to get going.
And when he did, Mattoon’s 6-point halftime lead over Charleston turned into a 20-point advantage after three quarters that eventually reached 30 in the fourth.
Princko, a senior guard, scored 19 of his game-high 23 points in the second half as Mattoon (9-5, 3-2 Apollo) defeated Charleston (7-10, 1-4) on Friday night, 81-47. He made five 3-pointers – all in the second half – and perhaps none bigger than one with four seconds left in the third quarter.
With no one particularly close to him, Princko unleashed a 3-pointer from the right wing several feet behind the line. It went in. As he trotted back, he extended his right hand, brought his thumb and pointer finger together and held up his other three fingers in excitement. While he ever so briefly celebrated, junior guard Jaydon Noe stole the ensuing inbound pass right under the basket and laid it in. Five points. Four seconds. And a bigger deficit for Charleston to erase.
“Big momentum shift for us,” Mattoon head coach Ryan Ghere said.
Much like the final minutes of the third quarter, Mattoon ripped off an extended run to start the game, leading 15-4 and the end of the first quarter and 21-6 early in the second. With Princko in an early slump, Jaydon Noe and freshman center Sam Bradbury combined for 15 first-half points. Noe ended the game with 17.
“That’s the good thing about this group,” Ghere said. “When one guy doesn’t have it going, everybody else kind of does and can help each other out.”
Bradbury, a freshman who wasn’t even listed on the varsity roster, started at center. It was his sixth varsity game and second start. Ghere made the decision to start him after he impressed in the Effingham Christmas Classic over the holidays. Bradbury grabbed three rebounds in the opening minutes and finished with 14 points.
“Our post play was the best we’ve had all year,” Ghere said. “Sam came out and established himself down low early.”
Mattoon built its early lead by ensnarling Charleston’s offense into a mess of turnovers, deflected passes and misfires. The Trojans made only one of their 15 first-quarter field goal attempts. Junior forward Caleb Hurst scored all four of their first-quarter points.
“We had some open looks, we just didn’t hit them,” Charleston head coach Blain Mayhall said.
That soon changed, albeit just for a quarter. The Trojans erupted for 22 second-quarter points to whittle down their deficit to 32-26 at halftime, with Hurst, sophomore guard Cade Landrus and senior guard Dayton Simpson directing the suddenly potent offense. The trio combined for 20 second-quarter points. They hit jumpers. They finished around the rim.
But Mattoon reverted back to a 2-3 zone to start the second half and, as it did in the opening quarter, made Charleston’s offense uncomfortable.
“Just turned the ball over too much,” Mayhall said.
Hurst led Charleston with 17 points. Simpson finished with 12, and Landrus with 10.
Charleston: Jan. 8 vs. Mt. Zion.
Mattoon: Jan. 8 at Mahomet-Seymour