Spirits high for Lady Jackets after strong performance in close loss to Princeton

Jillian Bond (33) posts up Lexi Smith (15).

By Noah Dalton

You don’t often see teams as happy after a loss as Mitchell High School was after Thursday’s game against Princeton.

Coming into the game, the Bluejackets had lost five straight and 11 of their 14 total games this year. The cherry on top of this run was their most recent loss, a 34-point decimation at the hands of Eastern (Pekin).

Mitchell head coach Tim Haworth said that after that game, he had a long meeting with the players in an attempt to help turn things around.

“We had a little meeting after the game the other night, about an hour,” he said. “The one thing that we talked about since that time was playing with enthusiasm, playing with heart. Doing it mainly on the defensive end and we talked about how the defense will hopefully kickstart our offense,” he continued.

Thursday’s game began like many others for the Bluejackets this season, with the Tigers jumping out to a strong first quarter lead. After senior guard Mylea Slone scored the first bucket of the game for Mitchell, Princeton began what was a 9-0 run and carried that momentum to a 21-9 lead to end the period.

This was certainly not the first time amidst this losing streak that the Bluejackets found themselves down double-digits early in a game, though this was perhaps the first time during this stretch that the team brought the enthusiasm and heart that Haworth had requested from them and that became apparent in the second quarter, as they started climbing back into the game.

Brooklyn Peterson (22) drives to the basket as she’s defended by Allie Taylor (4).

Mitchell went on to outscore the Tigers 17-8 in the quarter, clawing to bring the game back within three by halftime, as their defense continued to up the pressure in the game, forcing turnovers and stops that led to points.

After a scoreless previous game against Eastern, Slone was leading the charge early for the Bluejackets with 14 points at the half. Others who were able to find the bottom of the net in the half were Brooklyn Peterson, who added five, Jillian Bond, who scored six and Zoey Smith, who connected on a free-throw attempt for one point.

In the third, Mitchell found themselves once again stumbling a bit, allowing Princeton to start the quarter with an 8-0 run, once again extending their lead to double-digits where it remained for the remainder of the period.

Problematic for the Bluejackets in the third were turnovers. In the quarter, they gave the ball to the Tigers seven times, exceeding their combined first half total of five. Many of these turnovers led to points for Princeton in the third, with guards Lexi Smith and Mallory Watt each scoring six points, while neither missed a single field goal attempt.

Once again though, Mitchell kept fighting.

They were able to get back on track in the final quarter, with guard Malaya Tanglao scoring a transition layup off a quick steal by the Bluejackets to begin the fourth.

By this point in the game, fouls had become a major factor, with each team ending things having committed 24 fouls for a total of 48 in the game.

Mitchell continued to push their way back towards evening the score, getting to the line after they entered the bonus and connecting on the majority of their free-throws, finishing the quarter having shot 66% from the stripe on 12 attempts.

Malaya Tanglao (21) is pressured by two Princeton defenders.

The gap closed as time ran off the clock, with Princeton only up by three with just under two minutes left in the game, after a 2/2 trip to the line from Bond.

Time kept running off the clock with neither team able to score until Smith drained a long two-point jumper for the Tigers to extend their lead back to five with around 50 seconds remaining.

The Bluejackets continued to find their way to the free-throw line in order to lower Princeton’s lead to just two points with 13.6 left to play after back-to-back made attempts from Peterson.

On the inbounds, Mitchell fouled Tigers’ guard Raven Jones, who made both of her free-throws to extend her team’s lead to four with 8.4 seconds left.

The Bluejackets inbounded the ball to Slone, who pushed it up the court, leading her defender into a hard screen set by Bond, who was called for an offensive foul, a call that proved controversial with the travelling Mitchell faithful in attendance at Tiger Arena.

That foul ended not only their possession but the game as well, with the Bluejackets once again defeated, this time by a slim margin of just four points.

Despite coming up short in the end, Haworth was more than happy with his team’s performance on the night and their efforts to remain competitive in the game.

“I’m so proud of them I can’t stand it right now,” he said.

“Right when you thought, ‘okay, here we go again,’ these girls buckled down and said, ‘not tonight. Not tonight. We’re not going to let that happen tonight’ and all of a sudden, their pressure is not bothering us. Okay, we’re making good decisions. We’re making plays,” he said.

Mylea Slone (13) leaps for a layup attempt against Princeton.

Slone, who finished the night with 16 points, said that she felt this was perhaps the best she and her team had played all year.

After a loss, It’s always tough. But I think this game we definitely bounced back a lot better after Eastern Pekin. That was a rough game, but I think we really came out and showed what we can actually do,” she said. “And I mean, everyone out there played so much better than we have. That might have been our basketball all season, honestly,” Slone continued.

Slone echoed Haworth’s previous sentiments about the team’s effort in earlier games, saying she felt the coaching staff’s message had encouraged the team to step up and perform at a higher level.

“Our coaches, I think they really got on to us about our effort and I think it showed. Our effort was 10 times better at least,” she said.

Heading into a brief break at the start of 2023, with their next game, a home matchup against Bloomington North (10-5) scheduled for Jan. 10, Haworth said he feels good about where the team stands heading into the new year after the looked reinvigorated against Princeton.

“I think this bodes well for the new year for our ballclub. I mean, I’m excited now,” he said.

“They played with heart, they showed heart and for us at this point that’s what this was about. We gave ourselves a chance to win. That was the other big thing, we gave ourselves a chance. So, it was just a lot of pride and coach (Doug) Thomas has been pumping them up for this game, talking about effort and I’m excited about it. I’m excited for the new year, I really am,” Haworth continued.

Zoey Smith (10) whips a pass over Lexi Smith (15).

For the Bluejackets to keep this momentum going, Slone feels the team will need to carry the level of energy the team showed against the Tigers into their upcoming practices, pushing one another to continue to perform at this level.

“It all starts with practice. So, I think keeping each other up at practice and encouraging each other really,” she said. “And momentum carries. So, even though we lost this game, we played better than we have all year and that’ll carry on to the next game if we can just keep it up in practice and on to the next game,” Slone added.



  • Mylea Slone – 16 points, 5/9 shooting, 5/5 FT, 2 rebounds
  • Brooklyn Peterson – 10 points, 3/4 shooting, 6/10 FT, 11 rebounds
  • Jillian Bond – 16 points, 3/7 shooting, 10/12 FT, 5 rebounds
  • Malaya Tanglao – 4 points, 2/6 shooting, 0/0 FT, 0 rebounds
  • Zoey Smith – 1 point, 0/3 shooting, 0/1 FT, 2 rebounds
  • Taylor Lee – 0 points, 0/0 shooting, 0/0 FT, 1 rebound
  • Briley Dicks – 0 points, 0/1 shooting, 0/0 FT, 1 rebound


  • Taleigh Young – 0 points, 0/0 shooting, 0/0 FT, 1 rebound
  • Lexi Smith – 17 points, 8/12 shooting, 0/0 FT, 1 rebound
  • Azaryon Wesley – 3 points, 0/4 shooting, 3/9 FT, 8 rebounds
  • Kiara Banks – 6 points, 0/4 shooting, 6/7 FT, 8 rebounds
  • Addi Connor – 0 points, 0/2 shooting, 0/0 FT, 0 rebounds
  • Raven Jones – 9 points, 2/7 shooting, 3/4 FT, 2 rebounds
  • Allie Taylor – 12 points, 4/12 shooting, 3/4 FT, 3 rebounds
  • Mallory Watt – 6 points, 2/4 shooting, 0/1 FT, 2 rebounds