The Mitchell girls basketball team led from start to finish in capturing their fourth straight Western Trails Conference title with a 43-30 win over Morrill Saturday, Feb. 8 at Western Nebraska Community College’s Cougar Palace.
Mitchell senior Ansley Hessler, who was on varsity in all four WTC title win, said this one was special.
“This one is really special,” Hessler said. “I am just happy I got to play with these younger girls and they finally got to showcase their skills and everything. I am just really proud of them and our team.”
Hessler said it was a good team win.
“It felt really good to win,” Hessler said. “The kids last year were the ones that played the most and it is good to know that we can hold our own and go out there and play really hard and get the win. It was just really fun to play with those girls.”
Hessler said they knew what they needed to do, especially since they were expecting to battle Bridgeport, but had to shift things to play rival Morrill.
“The focus was just to play our game and play hard,” she said. “With the upset in the semis, we had to play Morrill and we didn’t think we were going to because we were preparing for Bridgeport, but it still was a really good game. We played Morrill before and we knew what we were up against. We just planned to play hard.”
Defense was the key in the win for Mitchell.
“I think we played really well,” Hessler said. “Our defense was really good. We slowed down our offense and got the looks we were looking for. It worked out perfect.”
Hessler said this win is special since Mitchell came in as a lower seed, but put everything together to get the win over a scrappy Morrill team that upset top-seeded Bridgeport in the semifinals.
Bridgeport went on to claim third place with a 66-38 win over Bayard in the earlier game. Bridgeport was led by Sydney Nein with 20 points followed by Ruthie Loomis-Goltl with 16 and Mackenzie Liakos with 12.
Tigers played well on defense to get the win, especially in the second half when Mitchell held Morrill to just 12 points and just one field goal.
Morrill coach Josh Guerue said his team couldn’t get shots to fall.
“We were a little sluggish tonight,” Guerue said. “We had a hard time getting going and give Mitchell credit, they came out and played really well. We didn’t respond real well to the pressure and that ended up being the difference there.”
Mitchell exploded out of the gate, closing out the first quarter on a 6-0 run to lead 12-5 after the first eight minutes. The second quarter was back and forth as Morrill outscored Mitchell 13-10 and closed to within a point at 19-18 on an old-fashioned 3-point play by Libbie Schaefer and then a trey by Shandie Hess.
Mitchell answered with a free throw by Jayden Kanno and then Josie Jenkins got an offensive putback off a missed free throw by Kanno for a 22-18 lead at halftime.
Morrill scored the first four points of the third quarter including the only field goal of the half on a Schaeffer bucket with 5:36 to play in the third to tie the game at 22. After that, Mitchell would run off nine straight to lead 31-22 after three periods.
The fourth quarter saw Morrill make just eight points, all on free throws. Mitchell, in the meantime, scored 12 points on just one field goal, which was a bucket by Kanno. Mitchell converted 10 of 16 free throws to get the win.
Kanno led the Tigers with 17 points, including 8 of 14 from the charity stripe. Johnson added nine points while Makena Chambers had seven points.
Morrill was led by Ilycie Guerue with 14 followed by Schaeffer with eight points.
Bayard 8 6 12 12 – 38
Bridgeport 20 17 14 15 – 66
Jessica Whitebear 4, Rylee Sharp 10, Tabbi Muhr 2, Kierra Miller 1, Lorren Henkel 2, Tayley Streeks 2, Hallie Cochran 12, Daci Harter 5.
Natalie Keenan-Vergil 2, Sydney Nein 20, Paige Schmunk 8, Mackenzie Liakos 12, Ruthie Loomie-Goltl 16, Ellie Cline 3, Arista Mancias 5.
Mitchell 12 10 9 12 — 43
Morrill 5 13 4 8 — 30
Quincey Johnson 9, Angelica Gutierrez 4, Jayden Kanno 17, Makena Chambers 7, Ansley Hessler 4, Josie Jenkins 2.
Shandie Hess 3, Libbie Schaefer 8, Madison Mendoza 5, Ilycia Guerue 14.