For the Daily News
There's just no other way to say it besides Effingham is just too good a team for this conference this season.
Day in, and day out, Effingham has blown out opponents in the Apollo Conference, and the Flaming Hearts added another to the list with a 69-47 win over Charleston at Baker Gym.
“I think it's just because we come into practice every day, work hard, and push each other,” said Effingham senior Leighton Lark. “Coach Reed stresses us to go hard every day because it only will make us better. I think that helps us win.”
It helps the Hearts to have the 6-5 Lark, who led all scorers with 20 points and Kevin Daugherty came off the bench with 16 points.
“We have great depth, and not many teams have that,” said Lark. “It's definitely nice especially in the Apollo.”
For Effingham, this was the fourth time the Hearts have defeated Charleston this season.
“Charleston has improved a lot,” said Effingham coach Ron Reed. “We got after them and were up by as much as 23 or 25, and they came out and out scored us in the second half. They played better, and under control. They shot the ball well and that gave us some problems.”
Charleston avoided the zero-point first quarter as Mitchell Huddleston's bucket fell with 2:30 remaining in the quarter in which the Trojans shot 1-for-10.
At the time, Effingham had already built a 12-0 lead, and Kevin Daugherty was on a roll. The reliable scorer added five straight points, and then added another five points in the early goings of the second quarter as his 3-point shot gave Effingham a 22-2 lead.
“They are a really good team,” said Charleston coach Jim Wood. “Against a really good team, you can't have a clunker of a half, or a quarter like in the first. I am pleased with how our kids came in the second half though.”
Effingham held the 37-14 lead, shooting 11-of-20 from the field, good for 55% shooting.
Effingham also sank five 3-points shots in the first half where they finished 8-for-13 from long range.
“I thought we did a good job of getting the shots available to us,” said Reed. “Charleston did a good job on help defense and jamming up the middle. It was a big bonus for us to get off to such a good start.”
Charleston opened the second half with a 7-0 run to cut the lead as close as 37-21. A timeout was called by Reed to settle the troops, and Phil Knight and Matt Wholtman connected for baskets to push the lead back to 20-points.
Effingham was able to coast the rest of the way to improve to 12-4 (6-0) overall on the season.
Now, Effingham looks to distance themselves to a point of clincher game if the Hearts can defeat Mattoon when the Green Wave come to town next Friday.
“Just because we beat teams by that much doesn't mean we can sleep on anyone though,” said Lark. “We beat them, and we have lost to T-Town. The beat them by 20 points.We'll go back to practice next week and work hard, come out to play, and hopefully put us in a position to clinch the Apollo.”
Huddleston led Charleston with 13 points while Reece Bell scored all of his 10 points in the third quarter as Charleston fell to 2-14 overall and 1-5 in the conference.
At least for now, Charleston can say they are done playing Effingham.
“I feel like we have seen each other enough times this season,” said Wood. “I'm proud of our kids in how they showed their grit. They never quite. They always play hard, and keep working, so that's some success right there. Even though, we didn't get the score we wanted, we still saw little bits of success to show the progress we are making.”
Effingham 19 18 17 15 69
Charleston 2 12 19 14 47
Effingham: Mahaffey 2, P. Knight 5, Wohltman 6, Lark 20, Foreman 9, Daugherty 16, Robinson 4, Wolfe 7
Charleston: Huddleston 13, Gowin 5, McInerney 8, Strader 5, Bell 10, Moore 2, Garrett 2