MATTOON -- Mount Zion built a small lead in the first quarter before Jonah Smith started to drive home an early dagger.
The sharpshooter hit three of his seven 3-pointers in a row to launch the Braves to a double-digit lead in the first quarter. Smith finished with 31 points and Mount Zion held on the rest of the way for a 71-61 win in the Class 3A Mattoon Regional semifinals.
Nate Ewing and Kevin Cox helped open up the perimeter, scoring 12 and 14 points, respectively. Drake Jeffries led Mattoon with 18 points and DeAndre Thomas added 10.
“I just think we were nervous and putting too much pressure on ourselves to make sure we were making the right play and making sure the ball was going in the hole rather than just playing,” Mattoon coach Josh Forsythe said.
Mattoon’s defense picked up in the second half, which helped the Wave cut it to a four-point game early in the third quarter. But the Braves defense responded, stalled Mattoon’s offense stalled to start the fourth quarter, and Mount Zion went on a 9-2 run to effectively close out the game.
Now a matchup with Effingham looms on Friday for a regional championship. The Braves came close to beating the Hearts a month ago, losing 93-80 in double overtime.
Mount Zion is going for its first regional title since 2006.
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Mount Carmel 66, Teutopolis 64
WEST FRANKFORT -- The Shoes had chances late.
With less than 10 seconds left and the possession, Teutopolis got two shots up but couldn't tie the game. The score ended nearly identical to the one from the first week of the season -- 64-62.
"It was a disappointing end to the season," Teutopolis coach Jason Hanson said. "We didn't play our best. We would like to have done a little bit better.
"All of our kids played their butts off and played hard. It's a tough way for the seniors to go out."
Mitch Hardiek led the Shoes with 17 points, Lane Belleville scored 15 and Brant Bueker added 13 more.
But defensively, Teutopolis couldn't contain Jackson Marcotte, Mount Carmel's 6-foot-7 junior. Marcotte hit 10 shots and made 8 of 10 from the line for 28 points.