SPRING HILL — After winning four of its first five games this season, Springstead not only had matched its win total from last year but looked like a contender in Class 6A, District 10. That was until Mitchell strolled into the Eagles' gymnasium.
In a sign that Springstead might not be quite ready for prime time, the Mustangs dominated the home team 53-32 Tuesday with solid defense and physical play.
"We've started the year off pretty well defensively," Mitchell coach Jared St. Charles said. "I tell the guys that defense travels no matter where you go, and that is what helped us jump out front."
Mitchell (4-0, 1-0) owned the paint from the opening tip in large part due to starting center Zach Rapaport. The senior big man picked up his first double double of the young season by scoring 10 and pulling down 11 rebounds. He also blocked three shots and recorded two steals as a defensive stalwart.
"It's nice to have a big guy in the back to be there and help you make plays defensively," St. Charles said. "Not everybody has that. It's a real luxury."
In only his second season at the helm after a revolving door on the Springstead sideline, Tim Plumadore has taken strides with the Eagles (4-2, 0-1), and the team showed signs of life against the Mustangs. Going for a loose ball in the first quarter, starting forward Bobby Harris broke his finger and did not return. Taking his place, Jarren Jones and Reid Bozarth combined for nine points and 14 rebounds.
However, Mitchell owned the boards, gaining a 41-32 advantage. Besides Rapaport, guard Bernie Conley grabbed nine rebounds to go with eight points. Lawrence Watt provided the offense with 16 points to go with six rebounds, three assists, three blocks and three steals.
"Lawrence has to be the guy to get in those spots and put the ball in the hoop," St. Charles said. "He did that tonight."
The outcome could have been worse had it not been for the Mustangs' poor free-throw shooting. While Springstead hit 7-of-8, Mitchell went only 5-of-16.
"I know it's an Achilles' heel," St. Charles said. "We have to do a better job in practice of working on it."