Effingham Daily News
A new year and a long layoff couldn't slow down the Effingham Lady Hearts Monday night.
Effingham ran its win streak to double digits, winning its 10th consecutive game with a 65-35 drubbing of the Charleston Trojans.
They've won 14 of 15 games while pushing their record to 14-3, and lead the Apollo Conference with a 5-0 mark.
"In a game like this, you're always about the bounce factor of beating a great Galesburg team and winning the championship and having to come back and play against a team where you know they've struggled a little bit," said coach Jeff Schafer.
Charleston took a quick 4-2 lead behind two McClain Miller jumpers, but Effingham put the clamps on defensively from there. They ended the quarter on up 19-7 and would go on a 21-3 run that lasted nearly eight minutes into the second quarter.
Defensively, Effingham gave Charleston its fair share of open looks. The Trojans had trouble getting their shots to fall, and Effingham capitalized, dominating the glass by a margin of 45 rebounds to 26.
"Our rebounding has been awesome," Schafer said. "We've been outrebounding people by double digits or doubling them up in about five of the last seven games."
Kelli Utz carried the offense in the first half, leading the team with 11 points and a couple nice passes to set up the other Hearts.
She finished with 14 points and seven rebounds, finishing second on the team in both categories.
"Kelli Utz did an awesome job," Schafer said. "She got off to a great start for us. Having a senior to get you out there and get you going in the right frame of mind, that's what she's supposed to do."
Effingham rolled out to a 37-14 lead at the half, and kept the pressure on the third quarter. They finished the quarter with a buzzer-beating putback by Taylor Willis, taking a 52-23 lead into the fourth.
Charleston's offense picked up a bit, as Morgan Sherwood emerged as a scoring option the Trojans lacked outside of Miller and Dakota Crowder earlier in the game. Sherwood had eight of her 10 points in the final frame, but it was far too little, too late for Charleston.
Josie Zerrusen came off the bench early in the first quarter and heated up in the second half. She had a double-double, recording 18 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Hearts in both categories.
The Hearts had a balanced scoring effort from there, as Stephanie Robb had eight points and seven rebounds, and no other Effingham player cleared six points.
The offensive unity has led to the Hearts' prolonged winning streak and the win Monday night, Schafer said.
"We've played together, first of all," he said. "One or two possessions, I thought we should have made one more pass. Other than that, you play 32 minutes, and you only have a few times where you think they didn't make the right decisions, that's pretty good."
Effingham looks to continue its win streak Thursday, when they travel to Mattoon to face the Green Wave. The Hearts won their prior matchup on Dec. 6.
Effingham 65, Charleston 35
Charleston 7 7 9 12 35
Effingham 19 18 15 13 65
Charleston - Miller 12, Story 2, Sherwood 10, Crowder 9, Rennels 2
Effingham - Totten 4, Utz 14, Weiser 2, Stephenson 6, Kaufman 5, Zerrusen 18, Robb 8, Willis 3, Field 5