By Noah Dalton
After postponing the matchup, which was originally scheduled for Thursday night at the same time as the girls basketball sectional game, Mitchell High School welcomed Bloomington South to The Hive for an early matinee game on Saturday, a matchup where the Bluejackets were defeated 53-34.
The near 20-point final deficit doesn’t necessarily tell the full story of the game, as Mitchell contended for the entire first half before letting things slip away as the game went on, with them leading the Panthers at multiple points throughout the first two quarters.
Against a 4A team and one who is perennially one of the area’s better schools, Bluejackets’ head coach Jackson Ryan was happy with the his team’s performance in the game, feeling as if a better shooting performance from them could’ve made the difference, as the team shot 45% from the floor and just 35% from behind the three-point line compared to 50% shooting from both the field and beyond the arc from their opponents.
“I thought in both halves we played well. I thought we battled and competed defensively. The difference in the game was down the stretch in the second half, they hit a couple more shots and whereas the first half we were kind of matching each other. In the second half, our shots didn’t fall and you’ve got to give credit to (Vincent Moutardier) and (Aiden Schmitz) for stepping up and making some perimeter shots. I thought that was a difference,” Ryan said.
“I mean, I thought we weren’t afraid. We weren’t intimidated by the Bloomington South, across their chest. So, that was big and unfortunately being ready to play in that start didn’t win as a ballgame today. But that’s something that we can keep in the back of our mind and hopefully at some point down the road when there’s a game that we shouldn’t win this mentality carries us to that win,” he continued.
Things were going Mitchell’s way early, as the Bluejackets jumped out to an early 7-0 lead, thanks to baskets from Brendan Tolliver, Austin Mosier and a three from Dawson Irwin.
It didn’t take long for Bloomington South to get on track, hitting back-to-back three pointers to bring it within one, but another triple from Irwin kept Mitchell once again extended Mitchell’s lead. The Panthers eventually gained their first lead of the game late in the first, but a three from Aiden Pridemore at the buzzer put the Bluejackets up 14-15 at the end of the period.
The second quarter was similarly close, with the two teams remaining within a basket of each other for much of the duration. The largest lead either team was able to obtain throughout the quarter was five, an advantage held by Bloomington South for all of about a minute, before Mitchell was able to find the bottom of the net again with Irwin’s third three of the game.
Mitchell ended the half down one, 25-24.
Things began to turn south for them in the second half, as their offense got off to a slow start, while the Panthers began to find their rhythm. By the end of the third, the one point deficit had expanded to 10. By the end of the game, it had nearly doubled at 19, with the Bluejackets scoring just 10 second half points compared to 28 from Bloomington South.
Ryan felt one of the difference making factors in the game was the difference in size between the two teams.
“I think their size, length, athleticism, physicality finally broke us, wore us down a little bit,” he said. “Ben Seitzinger and Kale England have been very vital to us offensively all season. And you know, when you’re throwing in 6’8, 6’8, 6’6 coming off the bench, that really clogs up the lane and Ben and Kale can jump stop and shot fake all they want, they’re still 6’8 right there. So, credit to them for not forcing anything,” he added.
Ryan felt Seitzinger, England and the rest of the team did a good job of working together to get good looks, though they weren’t able to knock them down at the same rate as the Panthers.
“They competed and instead of trying to force anything, they played as a team and I thought not just those two guys, but all of our guys. I thought our shot selection the entire game was exactly what we wanted. Just unfortunately, like I said, they were hitting in the second half and we weren’t,” said Ryan.
Looking ahead, Mitchell have just five matchups left before they’ll move to postseason play. As their season winds down, Ryan thinks playing a team as strong as Bloomington South served as good experience for them, helping them identify areas of their game to focus on ahead of sectionals.
Perhaps the most prominent at the moment being ball security, as Mitchell finished the game with 17 turnovers compared to just five from the Panthers,
“Coming down the stretch here as we finish up our last handful of games and head to the sectional, we’ve got to value the basketball. Every possession matters, so it’s really good for us to see this. You know, People might think we’re crazy for scheduling this game, Especially how our win loss record is to this point in the season. But it’s great for us to see this is stuff that we can’t simulate in practice,” he said.
“Now we know when things get tough down the stretch in the second half, we need to make some adjustments and do some different things to try to capitalize in some areas where they’re weak, but unfortunately, this Bloomington South team, there’s not a lot of weak areas.”
Their next game will be against Loogootee on Feb. 10 at The Hive. Varsity is set to tipoff at 7:30.