By Noah Dalton
Up against the heavy group favorites and the top ranked team in 2A, North Knox, in the first sectional round, Mitchell High School had their work cut out for them.
Heading into the game, the Bluejackets’ record on the season sat at just 5-17, with them having lost four of their last five though the win-loss record doesn’t quite tell the full story, as each of those loses came in close matchups decided on the final few possessions.
Against the Warriors on Friday, Mitchell exceeded the expectations of many. Despite losing in the end, 55-48, they fought to keep the game close throughout.
At different points in the night, the Bluejackets found themselves down double-digits, but each time battled back and sliced the lead down, trailing by as few as five for a stretch in the third quarter.
Though this was the end of their season, Mitchell head coach Tim Haworth said he could not have been more pleased with his team’s performance against one of the top teams Indiana has to offer.
“Going back to the Princeton game, these kids decided that we’re not going down without a fight and that’s what they did. They went out with a fight, went out swinging and I couldn’t be more proud of these kids. I’m extremely happy,” he said. “The game is over. I mean, we did what we did and we did it without a regret and to pull the number one team in the state and give them everything that they wanted is wonderful. So I’m just happy.”
Early on, the Warriors lived up to the hype and played like one of the top teams at 2A, jumping out to an early lead 6-0 lead and constricting the Bluejackets with a tough full-court press.
Mitchell found their footing somewhat after that, getting their first points with around six minutes left in the period from some free throws from senior Brooklyn Peterson, but struggled to take care of the ball. They turned the ball over eight times in the first quarter, which often led to offense for North Knox, who finished the quarter leading 20-12.
In the second, the Bluejackets did not let them pull away and instead crept their way back into things, reducing the lead to six with around two minutes left to play in the half. They’d enter the locker room trailing by eight once again, matching the Warriors basket-for-basket in the quarter.
In the first half Mitchell was led in scoring by senior Mylea Slone, who had 11. Assisting her were Peterson, with six, Jillian Bond, with six and Zoey Smith with four.
They began the third quarter with a quick three from Slone, to reduce the lead to five, but again struggled with turnovers. Like the first, the Bluejackets gave the ball away eight times in the third quarter, turning the ball over five straight times near the end of the period, before they’d finish it down 12, 36-48.
As they’d done all game to this point, Mitchell made another run in the fourth after a tough stretch. This time, they had gone on a 7-0 run after an early North Knox basket, reducing the lead to seven with around two minutes left to play, holding their top ranked opponents scoreless for a near five minute stretch.
Though they weren’t able to complete the comeback, eventually falling by seven points in the end, Haworth continued to praise his team’s effort in the game and their constant fight to reduce leads.
“There’s nothing to complain about tonight. They didn’t leave anything on the floor. They brought it, they left it out there and run after run, we kept coming back. And I’m really just so proud of each and every one of them in there,” he said.
This was the final game for Slone, Peterson and Malaya Tanglao, who was unable to play on the night after suffering a concussion in a January game that has kept her out of action since.
Though he said it was tough to say goodbye to his senior players, Haworth offered them reassurance for their performances as Bluejackets, regardless of their final record this season.
“For the seniors, it’s hard to say goodbye. But they were PLAC champions last year, they have a championship to their credit. And I remind them that and this year was not indicative of anything. I mean, every conceivable thing that could have been thrown at us was thrown at us; injuries, sickness, illness. I mean everything,” he said.
“I’m so proud of them and I’m just lost for words right now because of the effort they gave us out there. I mean, they had us, the expert John Harrell had us getting beat by 30 tonight. I think against Paoli he had us getting beaten by 20, but we kept proving them wrong and we kept taking it down to the wire. Again, just outstanding effort from all of our kids,” he continued.
Looking back, Haworth said he would remember this team and this group of players with one word: resilient.
“Resilient, everyone thrown at them, resilient. They did what we asked, there was no quit. They didn’t look at their record, they looked at who was next and let’s compete. Extremely proud,” he said.
- Mylea Slone – 17 points, 7/15 shooting, 1/1 FT, 4 rebounds
- Brooklyn Peterson – 15 points, 3/5 shooting, 8/12 FT, 8 rebounds
- Jillian Bond – 10 points, 5/11 shooting, 0/2 FT, 6 rebounds
- Zoey Smith – 6 points, 3/3 shooting, 0/0 FT, 0 rebounds
- Grace Thompson – 0 points, 0/0 shooting, 0/0 FT, 2 rebounds
- Briley Dicks – 0 points, 0/1 shooting, 0/0 FT, 0 rebounds
- Ava Williams – 2 points, 1/3 shooting, 0/0 FT, 0 rebounds
- Reagan Hammelman – 5 points, 2/6 shooting, 1/2 FT, 3 rebounds
- Cora Armes – 2 points, 1/2 shooting, 0/2 FT, 1 rebound
- Briley Utt – 2 points, 1/1 shooting, 0/0 FT, 3 rebounds
- Madison McCoy – 7 points, 2/3 shooting, 2/2 FT, 1 rebound
- Alexandra McKinley – 19 points, 8/12 shooting, 2/2 FT, 2 rebounds
- Brooklyn Sturgeon – 3 points, 1/2 shooting, 0/1 FT, 2 rebounds
- Brynna Collins – 7 points, 3/13 shooting, 1/2 FT, 4 rebounds