DECATUR -- Mattoon and Rochester came into Thursday’s Class 3A sectional championship game at MacArthur tied for fifth place in the last Illinois Associated Press poll.
Both teams also picked up the No. 1 seed, but Rochester threw the first punch and never let up.
The Rockets jumped out to a 14-2 lead and kept the double-digit advantage throughout the game.
Mattoon’s record-setting season ultimately came to an end with a 69-39 loss in the Class 3A sectional championship.
“You have to give Rochester credit, they are a great team,” Mattoon coach Amanda Aydt said. “I am proud of the girls, they fought hard and fought until the last buzzer sounded. They gave 100 percent.”
Even though Mattoon lost on Thursday, it doesn’t overshadow one of its best seasons. The Green Wave finished with a 30-2 record, which is the most wins in the program’s history. Plus, Mattoon won its first regional title in more than a decade and claimed its second straight Apollo Conference title.
“I told them, ‘Ladies, you have to keep your heads up. You have accomplished so many things this year, things that have never been done in school history,’” Aydt said. “I told them you have to be proud of yourselves. I am so proud of them.
"I appreciate all of their hard work and dedication all year long. Just very thankful to be able to coach this team. I’ve enjoyed it and it’s been a lot of fun. I want to thank all of the players for everything they’ve done for me and the program."
Mattoon graduates seniors Avery Jackson, who led the team with 25 points, Sierra Thompson, Ivy Nichols, Gillian Card and Paisley Meyer.
“The seniors have done a lot for this program,” Aydt said. “I wish them the best of luck. They will all be successful in whatever they chose to do. It’s just a great group.”
Rochester started with back-to-back buckets by Madison Faulkner and Nicole Robinson for a quick 4-0 lead when Sierra Thompson put the Green Wave on the board with a layup. It was two of only six points for Thompson in the first half, who sat for part of the first and second quarter with foul trouble.
Thompson, a Bowling Green recruit, usually gives teams matchup troubles, but Rochester was able to counter with Angela Perry, who will be Thompson’s teammate at Bowling Green. Perry, who is 6-3, got help from either 5-11 Lyric Boone or 5-10 Faulkner inside to limit Thompson.
“Lyric or Angela both, regardless of who was manned up or who was helping, did a phenomenal job on ball, but then also providing a double-team when she caught it,” Rochester coach J.R. Boudouris said.
After Thompson’s first bucket of the game, Rochester went on a 16-3 run to build a 20-5 lead. Mattoon tried to get back into the game when Avery Jackson hit a 3-pointer and then scored a layup in the final seconds to make it 20-10 going into the second quarter.
Rochester’s defense made it tough on Jackson and the rest of the Green Wave for the rest of the game. Anytime a Green Wave player drove in, they were greeted by either Perry, Boone or Faulkner and they altered a good percentage of shots.
“Our key tonight defensively was (Jackson) and (Thompson),” Boudouris said. “Take those two away and make others beat us. (We) did a nice job of rotation to help when (Jackson) did get in the paint, rotating to help her shoot a contested jumper or a floater over the top of a help defender.”
Mattoon was held to only six points in the second quarter. Rochester took advantage with 14 points and pulled away for a 34-16 halftime lead.
The two teams traded buckets to start the third quarter, but Mattoon couldn’t get on the run it needed as Rochester went up 44-24.
The Rockets dealt the final blow with 25 points in the fourth quarter to seal the 69-39 victory.