TRINITY — Mitchell and Chamberlain never faced each other in the regular season but they knew they had something in common — speed and defense.
The fast breaks went back and forth until the Mustangs started to open things up underneath and find quick baskets before the Chiefs (16-10) could set up. The Mustangs led by as many as 13 but with 1:38 left in the game, the lead was down to two. A pair of turnovers and long assists helped seal the 54-48 win in Thursday's Class 7A region quarterfinal.
"We both have a lot of similar stuff; we both like to run," Mustangs coach Jared St. Charles said. "It came down to who could execute better."
The Mustangs (21-7) spent much of the first quarter trying to break through the Chamberlain zone defense. When they couldn't, they pulled up and shot 3s. It worked well in the first quarter and Jimmy Eannel hit Mason Castricone for a quick basket to end the first quarter up by eight. Inbound plays helped crack the Chamberlain defense in the second quarter when the hot shooting cooled. Eannel hit a jumper off an inbound pass to head into halftime up 29-16.
"We knew they did that (play zone defense) and we prepared for it," St. Charles said.
Both teams came out a little shaky in the third, combining for 12 turnovers. Eannel drained a 3 to cap a 5-0 run. JP Watt hit one later in the quarter and Alec Sherman logged a blocked shot coming down from his leap that really got the crowd into the game. Eannel hit Sherman in the waning seconds and the Mustangs led 43-32 into the final quarter.
The Chiefs cut the lead to six early in the fourth, when guard Reggie Lowe hit a 3-pointer and subsequently caught fire shooting. Chamberlain coach Christopher Snyder got whistled for a technical but the Chiefs came out of it stronger after Mitchell whiffed on the free throws. Then Chamberlain's Myikel Wilson hit Lowe for an open shot to cut the lead to five with just shy of five minutes left.
Eannel countered with a 3 on the other end and the crowd erupted. A Sherman assist to Watt pushed the lead back out to eight with four minutes left. Lowe came back with another of his three triples on the night and team-high 17 points. A Chamberlain steal and another great shot by Lowe cut the lead to 50-48 with 1:38 left. After an exchange of turnovers, all 10 players were greedily chasing after every loose ball. It brought out the Chamberlain defense and opened a gap for another couple of quick Mustang scores that sealed it. Castricone won a battle for a loose ball and Justin Marquez hit Watt under the basket.
Sherman finished with nine points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots. Watt scored a game-high 19 points. Eannel made several critical plays and finished with 12 points and three assists. Romario Campbell made solid contributions off the bench.
"(Campbell) is an athlete, long and makes a lot of deflections, rebounds," St. Charles said. "He's a good fit against these longer, athletic teams."