MATTOON – Ryan Ghere is used to sweating out the end of games by now. So when a comfortable second-half lead became a one-possession contest in the final minute, he didn’t fret, even though his team’s penchant for letting opponents into games is, he admits, a tad frustrating.
“We’ve done this for two years now where we let teams back into the game and we don’t make the best decisions,” said Ghere, Mattoon’s head coach.
It didn’t matter, though, as has been the theme so far in 2019. Three of Mattoon’s last five games have been a one-possession contest in the final 60 seconds. They’ve won them all.
“You have to give them credit,” Ghere said. “They find a way to win, make enough free throws down the stretch, get a defensive stop and enough rebounds at the end to preserve a victory."
The Green Wave (15-5, 5-2 Apollo) beat Centralia 63-60 Tuesday in a non-conference matchup, their first home game since Jan 5. The 15 wins are the program's most since 1991-92, when Ghere was a senior Green Wave guard. They’ve now won eight in a row going into Friday’s home meeting with Lincoln, which is 8-0 in conference and has lost twice all year.
Jadyn Princko led Mattoon with 25 points. Dalton Compton added 11, and Jaydon Noe eight.
The teams combined for 34 fouls in a chirpy game that took nearly an hour and a half to complete. Both coaches were issued warnings for arguing with the officials in the first half and Centralia’s Preston Johannes was issued a technical foul.
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Mattoon led for the final 22 minutes, keeping Centralia at arm’s length, but never pulling away quite enough to morph it into a blowout. That nearly bit them in the final minute. Centralia trailed 60-52 with 1:13 remaining, but a Johannes layup and Jamie Long 3-point play, combined with a couple Mattoon missed free throws, shrank it to a 3-point advantage with 47 seconds left.
Mason Blakemore’s 3-pointer with 13 seconds left made the score 62-60. Noe was intentionally fouled and made one of two free throws. Blakemore missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer from the left wing at the buzzer. It hit the heel and bounced harmlessly out of bounds.
Centralia began its gradual climb back in the fourth quarter. The Orphans, just like they did in the first quarter, forced Mattoon to abandon its usual zone defense and go to a man-to-man defense. It generated just enough stops.
Ghere called timeout with six minutes left when Blakemore made a 3-pointer to slim Mattoon’s lead to 53-47. Freshman center Sam Bradbury became Mattoon’s answer. He passed out of a double-team to Jacob Spitz, who missed short on a left wing 3-pointer. Bradbury grabbed it and made a fallaway hook shot to help ward off the Centralia rally until the final minute.
Mattoon began the game as if were running in mud, scoring four points in the opening 4:30 and trailing 12-4. Princko ended that, though. He scored 13 of Mattoon’s next 17 points. By the time he descended, Mattoon had a 20-18 lead early in the second quarter. The lead reached seven about 90 seconds later when Noe scored the game’s next five points. The Green Wave took a 30-22 advantage into halftime.
Johannes led Centralia with 20 points. The Orphans dropped to 9-12.