Down 29-26 to Mitchell, Saturday, The Chadron girls’ basketball team had a nervous crowd at the Birdcage on their feet when Cardinals’ junior Shea Bailey sent a would-be tying shot from just inside the half-court mark with just seconds remaining.
Unfortunately for Chadron, the ultra-long 3-point shot fell well short and the Tigers narrowly avoided what would have been just their second loss of the season.
“The girls played so hard,” McLain says of Chadron’s near miss at taking the Class C1-leading Tigers to overtime. “You could see the heart, the hustle, the determination; they just came up one play short.”
Heading into Saturday’s game with the Cardinals, Mitchell was averaging 55 points per game and had suffered just one loss, a 39-32 defeat at the hands of Superior to end 2018.
Despite only leading briefly in the opening minutes and briefly again in the fourth quarter, the Chadron defense helped keep the score close throughout the game and ultimately held the Tigers to their lowest scoring total of the season.
“I’m very happy with the defense,” Chadron Head Coach Jonn McLain says of the loss, “The girls did what they had to do. They fought through some fatigue and adversity and did a nice job of keeping a lot of good Mitchell players in check.”
With about four seconds remaining in the game, Cardinals’ freshman Jacey Garret collected a rebound after Mitchell’s Jayden Kanno’s free-throw missed the mark, and sent a long pass to teammate Bailey just inside the offensive zone.
Unfortunately for the Cards, the Mitchell defense reacted quickly to the play. With the final seconds ticking off the clock Bailey might have had time to make her way closer to the net, but as quickly as she received the ball a Mitchell defender was on her, forcing her to risk a time-consuming pass elsewhere or take the long shot.
“You have to give credit to Mitchell playing good defense in that situation,” McLain says.
After a brief fourth-quarter lead disappeared, Chadron’s hopes were renewed as with just under :30 remaining Cardinal freshman Olivia Reed slipped away from her defender and beyond the arc. Garret found her open in the corner and Reed’s 3-point swish brought the Chadron deficit to just 27-26.
With just under :20 remaining Reed tallied her fifth foul of the game and Mitchell standout Keyanna Wilfred sank two-of-two from the line to make it 29-26.
Chadron’s defense limited Wilfred, one of Mitchell’s best offensive players, to just two field goals in the game, scored in the first quarter, but were maybe too heavy-handed in their effort, sending Wilfred to the line on 12 occasions. The 6-foot-3 senior sank eight from the line and led all scorers with 12 points despite just two shots sank from the field.
Chadron’s defensive treatment of Wilfred was a microcosm of the game as the Cards held the Tigers to just nine field goals and didn’t allow a single 3-pointer, but sent Mitchell to the line on 21 occasions, where they’d tally 11 points.
Bailey led the Cardinals with eight points, including two 3-pointers, one of which gave the Cardinals their brief 23-21 lead in the fourth quarter. Reed was Chadron’s next best scorer with seven.
Mitchell’s 11 fouls sent the Cardinals to the line just once. Junior Tyleigh Strotheide sank both shots during the opportunity.
The Chadron girls were back in action Tuesday night against the Hemingford Bobcats, but results were unavailable at time of print. The Cardinals travel to Alliance, Friday, to face the 5-7 Bulldogs. Tipoff is scheduled for 5:30 p.m.
Mitchell 8 9 4 8 ---29
Chadron 5 6 9 6 ---26
Custer—Keyanna Wilfred 12, Ricci Ayala 6, Bethany Sterkel 5, Anabello Gillen 5, Jayden Kanno 1. Totals: 9 11-21 29.
Chadron--Shea Bailey 8, Olivia Reed 7, Peyton Underwood 4, Dawn Dunbar 3, Jacey Garret 2, Tyleigh Strotheide 2. Totals: 6 (4) 2-2 26
3-pointers: Chad--Bailey 2, Reed 1, Dunbar 1