By Andy Bader, Mitchell Advocate February 26, 2018
The Mitchell District High School (MDHS) Blue Devils, fresh off an exciting come-from-behind 44-38 win over St. Michael Warriors to win their first Huron-Perth junior boys basketball title in a decade Feb. 16, couldn’t quite come up with the same type of comeback in the WOSSAA ‘A’ championships last Thursday in London.
Matched first against Dorchester, the Blue Devils couldn’t find any real rhythm and made too many uncharacteristic mistakes to make up a nine-point deficit late in the third quarter. They did rally within a point as Karsen Eisler hit back-to-back three-point shots to draw within one heading into the fourth, but Dorchester answered that with a 9-0 run of their own early in the fourth to pull away for good in a 46-37 win.
Ethan Holden and Eisler both had 11 points in the loss.
Relegated to the bronze medal game later that day the Blue Devils again struggled out of the gate. However, coach AJ Moses said the bench “stepped up in a big way” by coming back from a five-point deficit in an eventual 48-41 win over their hosts, Monseigneur Bruyere.
Josh Eidt, Josh Duncan and Callum McMann were the leaders off the bench on both ends of the court in the contest, with Eisler leading with 14 points and Eidt adding 11. Captain Darren Dixon chipped in with seven.
“I thought it was a great day, it’s WOSSAA so all we asked for was close games,” Moses said. “We had an opportunity to win both games.
“In the semi-final, it looked like Dorchester wanted it more than us,” he continued. “Either we were a little nervous or we took them lightly I don’t know what it was. But second chance points killed us.”
Mitchell missed 11 free throws and were a sloppy 11-for-40 offensively yet were right in contention almost the entire game.
“Every single player played (in the bronze medal game), we wanted the chance to win with everybody getting some minutes and they did,” he said.
In the Huron-Perth final on their home court six days earlier, meanwhile, the turning point was when trailing by seven, Ben Small – the Blue Devils’ first player off the bench – hit his first three-pointer of the season and then stole the ball and converted a lay-up to make it a two-point game. Buoyed by the home crowd, the Blue Devils would take the lead and eventually hang on for the six-point victory.
Mitchell went 9-1 in the regular season and finished second behind Northwestern, which had the same record. St. Mike’s upset Northwestern in one semi-final, while the Blue Devils knocked off Stratford Central in the other.
“We’re the smallest school in the board. For us to do that is something special,” Moses said. “We put in a lot of work in the houseleague program and travel program. These kids deserve it. They’ve been working hard since they were 10 years old.”
Mitchell finished with an overall record of 18-4.
“It was a great year,” he said. “The future looks bright for the MDHS basketball program.”