The Mitchell County boys basketball team gathers around the Region 1-A tournament championship trophy Saturday night in Pelham after beating Calhoun. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
PELHAM — There are one-sided games. The are routs, and romps and blitzes and blowouts.
And then there’s what happened in the Pelham High gym Saturday night when Mitchell County met Calhoun County in the Region 1-A final.
It was final, all right.
And it was all Mitchell County — all night long.
The Eagles hit the court like Sherman hit Atlanta and burned the nets down all night against a Calhoun County team that was never in the game. The final was 69-44, but it wasn’t that close.
Mitchell rushed out to a 22-6 first-quarter lead, and then took a break and did it again, outscoring Calhoun, 22-5, in the second quarter as well.
That’s right, it was 44-11 at halftime, and Mitchell could have sent scouts at intermission to see who the Eagles will play in next Saturday’s first-round game in the GHSA Class A State Tournament.
It was that one-sided.
“You can’t measure the heart of a champion, and these guys are champions,” said Mitchell County assistant coach Derex Woumnm, who admitted he was surprised at the outcome. “I couldn’t have expected this. I wasn’t looking for this to happen. I knew our guys would play hard. That’s all they have been talking about all week, so I knew we would play hard. But I have never seen anything like this (in a big game).’’
Playing hard may not be enough to explain what Mitchell (18-9) did to Calhoun County (20-7), which was the top-seeded team in the north end of Region 1-A and ranked No. 5 in The Herald‘s Fab Five Poll.
The Eagles soared Saturday.
Woumnm did have a great game plan.
“We wanted to play (for the title),’’ he said. “Every guy knew exactly what his role was. The guys really worked hard and studied a lot of film from the last time we played them. They knew what they could do, and we ran a defense that confused Calhoun County. We were running one defense and they thought we were in another one. We confused them.’’
Mitchell’s kids had something to prove, a debt to settle from last year when Calhoun eliminated the Eagles in the opening round of the region tournament, ending their season.
Turnovers came in rushes in the first half as Mitchell took the ball, the momentum and the game away from Calhoun, forcing 20 first-half turnovers and scoring at will.
The last time these two played Calhoun led by 30 when Mitchell County stormed back to beat the Cougars in overtime. Do the math: Mitchell outscored Calhoun by more than 60 points in the combined last half of the regular-season game, and the first half Saturday.
How bad was it?
They went to a six-minute mercy rule clock in the fourth quarter because Mitchell was up, 61-23, after three.
Seven different players scored for Mitchell in the fast-and-furious first quarter, and by halftime, nine had put up points for the Eagles.
By the time it was over, Mitchell had used 15 players, and a dozen had scored. Diquan Isom led the way with 15 points, including a pair of 3s in the first to ignite the fire, and Bruce Bennett, who had four points at halftime, came on strong in the second half to finish with 15. Daron Hodges scored 10 and Jaquan Williams and Stacey Butler Jr. each added seven points.
Calhoun County was led by Vincent Powell (12 points) and Marquez Williams (11 points), who were the only Cougars to score in the first half.
“We didn’t show up to play,’’ Calhoun County coach Marcus Shaw said. “Mitchell came out really hot, and they played hard. They definitely played hard the whole game. This was our first region championship game in 12 years. We just have to come back (strong) next week (in the state tournament).’’
Mitchell played like it had something to prove.
“They put us out last year, and that’s what motivated us,’’ Butler said. “We talked about that game all week and how they ended our season. We wanted to beat them bad, real bad. We wanted to show who the best team was.’’
They did — and then some.
There was no slowing down, even after the furious start.
“That (fast start) pumped us up,’’ Butler said. “We just had to keep it going.’’
And all the preparation paid off for Mitchell.
“We studied film on them and we knew what they were going to do,’’ said Isom, a senior. “We worked hard to get ready for this game because of what happened last year. We really wanted to beat them. We talked all week about playing hard and crashing the boards. And we wanted to play hard to the end.’’
They did, especially on defense.
“That has been the way we have played all year,’’ Woumnm said. “We don‘t care if we score, but we don‘t want to give the other team anything.
“Winning the region championship means a lot to us,’’ he added. “It means a lot to the team, the school. It means so much to us.
“It‘s being Mitchell County basketball again.’’