The Mitchell High School gymnasium had the atmosphere of a NBA playoff game during the TSSAA Class AA sectional on Monday.
With music, cheerleaders, majorettes, the dance team AND the pep band in attendance to help create havoc, the Tigers (23-7) defeated visiting Liberty Tech from Jackson, Tenn. by 17 points – 59 to 42. The victory cleared the way for Mitchell's advance to the state championship game for the second consecutive year.
The Tigers' defensive pressure and balanced scoring from their big three helped to turn back a late rally by Liberty, which cut the lead to single digits late in the fourth period.
Jeremiah Martin led the way for Mitchell with 17 points.
"I'm feeling motivated right now...trying to get back there (state championship) and just win," said Martin. "We played together and followed the game plan and held each other accountable."
Naba Echols collected 16 points and Khalia Spencer finished with 14 points to help lift Mitchell to victory.
"I'm feeling great," said Echols. "This is my first time ever going to state. Transferring to this school was the best decision of my life!"
"It took effort. Extreme effort," said Spencer. "Coach always says give extreme effort and the rest will play out."
"I feel good, but most of all I feel good for these kids," added head coach Faragi Phillips.
"I'm a tough, hard-nosed coach and these kids never wavered away from what I want from them and what my goals are for them. I'm so happy for them."
Mitchell'a fans were happy too, as they danced, jumped and screamed ecstatically across the gym floor. Now they can dance their way down I-40 east to the state tournament, where they hope to do one game better than last year when they finished as the runners-up.
Southwind easily handled Craigmont with a 95-36 win and earned the school's first trip to the state tournament. The Jaguars will take a 30-6 record to Murfreesboro.