Mitchell girls taste the big league
     2016-03-11      By Jane White    editor@geringcitizen.com
Photo by Jane White/for the Citizen Mitchell’s Celeste Cardona (3) hustles downcourt with Lincoln Christian Crusaders in hot pursuit during the Lady Tigers’ first appearance at state since 1995.  
Earning a trip to the Class C1 Nebraska State High School Girls Basketball Championships proved to be a learning experience for the young Mitchell Lady Tigers team.

Mitchell, the tournament’s eighth seed, fell to top-seeded Lincoln Christian, 67-27, in first-round action Thursday at the Bob Devaney Sports Center.

Christian went on to finish as state runners-up, falling to Kearney Catholic in the C1 championship game.

Mitchell head coach Brock Ehler, who brought a team of all underclassmen to Lincoln, said Christian plays an aggressive, physical defense.

“We knew it could be a tough game coming in,” Ehler said. “They are aggressive and they are fast and you can tell they’ve played a ton of basketball.”

Once Mitchell started to “break down,” Ehler said Christian was like “a wild animal.”

“They saw a little bit of blood and started taking advantage of it,” Ehler said.

Ehler said the Lady Crusaders were able to score points in transition and made some buckets, while the Lady Tigers had trouble putting the ball in the hoop.

“We feel like we didn’t play near the game we’re capable of playing,” Ehler said.

Ehler said the Lady Tigers learned some things which can make them better players, individually and as a team, in the game.

The Lady Tigers held the Lady Crusaders in check early in the state opener.

Christian started off the game with a field goal, but Mitchell answered with a free throw by Celeste Cardona and a two-pointer by Anabelle Gillen, giving the Lady Tigers a 3-2 lead.

The Lady Crusaders scored the next four points, going up 6-3.

Gillen hit a free throw with 3:43 left in the first period, making it a 6-4 contest.

Christian then took over offensively, however, scoring eight-straight points to go up 14-4 with 1:14 remaining in the quarter.

Cardona ended the first-quarter scoring, hitting a bucket with 49 seconds on the clock, and pulling Mitchell back within eight points, 14-6.

Jori Peters scored for the Lady Tigers to open the second quarter, making the score.

After a Christian bucket, Cardona hit a free throw, making the score 16-9 with 5:02 left on the second-quarter clock.

The Lady Crusaders then went on another run, scoring eight-straight points to go up 24-9 with 2:23 remaining in the period.

Mitchell’s Kenzey Kanno stopped the run with a pair of charity tosses for a 24-11 score.

A two-pointer and then a three by Christian extended the lead to 29-11.

Keyana Wilfred hit a free throw for Mitchell, ending the second-quarter scoring with Christian leading 29-12.

Christian continued to pull away from Mitchell in the third quarter, making two scoring plays for each of the Lady Tigers.

Cardona opened the third quarter with a bucket, but Christian answered with a two-pointer and bonus free throw and then another field goal.

A free throw by Mitchell’s Peters was answered with a two-pointer and bonus free throw and another field goal by Christian.

Cardona scored from the field for Mitchell, but the Lady Crusaders answered with a pair of field goals.

A two-pointer by Mitchell’s Peters was answered by Christian with two free throws and a two-point field goal.

With 48 seconds left in the third quarter, Mitchell’s Wilfred hit a two-pointer, making the score 47-21 Christian.

The Lady Crusaders hit two three-point goals in the final 19 seconds of the period, extending their lead to 53-21 going into the fourth quarter.

Christian finished out the game by outscoring Mitchell 14-6 in the fourth quarter.

Cardona and Peters each had a field goal for the Lady Tigers in the final period, while Wilfred finished off the game’s scoring with a pair of free throws.

Cardona was the only Lady Tiger to reach double-figure scoring with 10 points.

Peters finished with seven points for Mitchell, while Wilfred had five, Gillen had three and Kanno had two.

The Lady Tigers finished their season with a 20-7 record.

All 12 players on the Mitchell roster can return next season as it includes three juniors, three sophomores and six freshmen.

“We’re young and we had a lot of juniors, sophomores and freshmen sitting on the bench, too,” Ehler said. “These kids love the game of basketball and they like to compete.”

This year’s state tournament berth game the players a “taste” of what may come in the future.

“They’ll want to get better, so they will put the time in,” Ehler said.

Ehler said he hopes the Lady Tigers’ take this year’s experiences and build on them.

“It started with winning the district final,” Ehler said. “And then the road trip and the excitement and the camaraderie.”

Next year, Ehler said the team’s goals and objectives “will be a little bit higher.”

Mitchell 6 6 9 6 27

Christian 14 15 24 14 67

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