By Noah Dalton
BICKNELL – For the first time since the 2011-12 season, Mitchell High School has advanced to the second round of sectional play after defeating North Knox on Wednesday night, 59-45.
The Bluejackets led fairly comfortably for much of the game, at one point leading by 20 points in the third quarter, though the Warriors did make a run with six minutes left in the fourth quarter to reduce it to a nine point game including knocking down three straight threes.
Despite the fourth quarter scare, hearkening back to some of the team’s earlier games this season where they lost large leads in the fourth quarter to eventually lose, Mitchell got it done in the postseason for the first time in a long time.
Bluejackets’ head coach Jackson Ryan was happy to bring a win like this back to the program, particularly in this fashion as it showed the team’s growth throughout the season in the way they faced adversity late in the game.
“It feels great. I think that’s a game, it’s a pressured situation, very physical game and they made a run in the second half. I think earlier in the year, the first half of season we fold in that situation, ” Ryan said. “The way that we’ve been playing lately luckily, that wasn’t the case. So it’s just kind of all that matters is you find a way to win. Doesn’t matter the opponent and situation. You know, just take it one step at a time, one day at a time and you’ve got to find a way to win.”
The biggest difference in this physical game was Mitchell’s free-throw shooting, where they finished the game 21/23 from the stripe. Comparatively, North Knox finished the game just 4/8 from the line. In the fourth, as the Warriors began making their push back into the game, it was the Bluejackets’ free throw shooting that kept them in front, as they proceeded to go 10/10 from the line in the quarter to close out the game.
“It’s a game of percentages and tonight was the night that we were all on. And I shouldn’t say anything about officiating but a very physical game. We can maybe shoot a little more free throws, but it was consistent. So you know, credit to our kids especially Ben Seitzinger, you know, 6/6. He’s probably, in the last five or six games, kind of struggled from the free throw line and found a way and got it done tonight,” Ryan said.
Mitchell’s strong defensive play early put them in a good position to win this game. They held North Knox to just 14 points in first half, only allowing them to connect on just five field goal attempts through two quarters while sending them to the line one time.
“We hang our hat on the defensive end. We really put them in some tough spots in the first half. But credit to them, they got going, hit some deep shots in the second half,” said Ryan. “But I think that’s a credit to our defense because that’s all we were giving up. So, defense travels. And for us, at times when we’re struggling to score that always has to be constant and I felt like it was tonight.”
Leading them on the night was senior Brendan Tolliver, who finished the game with 18 points to lead all scorers. He was aided by Gavin Robinson, who added 12, Kale England with eight and Ben Seitzinger with six.
With this win, the Bluejackets advance to the semifinals, where they’ll matchup with 2A number one Linton-Stockton, who defeated Paoli in the following game on Wednesday 72-48.
The Miners sit at 24-1 on the season having not lost since their Dec. 10 matchup to Kentucky’s Cooper High School.
They also hold a win over Mitchell this season. That game was played just the day before on Dec. 9, and saw Linton-Stockton win in convincing fashion, 71-34.
The Miners are led by University of Florida commit Joey Hart, who is currently ranked as the 25th best shooting guard in the country in the 2023 graduating class by 247sports. Against the Bluejackets earlier this season, he was dominant, finishing with 23 points on 84% shooting from the field.
Regardless, Mitchell is not counting themselves out and will show up back at North Knox on Friday looking to pull off the upset.
“We’re excited to be there on the semi final on a Friday night with a chance to win but we’re playing to win. We’re going there to win. We’re not going to be afraid or back down from anybody. I think the schedule that we play has prepared us for moments and opportunities like this. And again, credit to our kids. If we have truly been getting better every day like we think that we have, regardless of who it is Friday night, we should be ready to play,” Ryan said.
- Brendan Tolliver – 18 points, 6/9 shooting, 5/5 FT, 3 rebounds
- Ben Seitzinger – 6 points, 0/4 shooting, 6/6 FT, 9 rebounds
- Kale England – 8 points, 2/4 shooting, 4/4 FT, 8 rebounds
- Austin Mosier – 4 points, 1/5 shooting, 2/2 FT, 2 rebounds
- Dawson Irwin – 5 points, 2/5 shooting, 0/0 FT, 2 rebounds
- Bryson Shoults – 4 points, 2/2 shooting, 0/0 FT, 1 rebound
- Aiden Pridemore – 2 points, 1/3 shooting, 0/0 FT, 1 rebound
- Gavin Robinson – 12 points, 3/6 shooting, 4/6 FT, 4 rebound
- Mason Lyons – 8 points, 3/11 shooting, 0/2 FT, 1 rebound
- Lane Adams, 3 points, 1/6 shooting, 1/2 FT, 3 rebounds
- Cohen Williams – 2 points, 1/3 shooting, 0/0 FT, 4 rebounds
- Devin Kent – 2 points, 1/3 shooting, 0/0 FT, 3 rebounds
- Landyn Worstell – 5 points, 2/2 shooting, 1/1 FT, 0 rebounds
- Kade Grotgeuth – 2 points, 1/5 shooting, 0/0 FT, 4 rebounds
- Kyson Parker – 8 points, 3/8 shooting, 1/1 FT, 1 rebound
- Will Arnold – 3 points, 1/2 shooting, 1/2 FT, 1 rebound
- Carson Goforth – 12 points, 5/11 shooting, 0/0 FT, 0 rebounds