Led by third-year coach Gina Mitchell, back row, far left, the Crisp Academy Lady Wildcats — holding up three fingers — made it a perfect 3-for-3 under Mitchell’s tutelage after Crisp defeated Citizens Christian in the GISA Class A state championship game Saturday for the program’s third straight state crown. (Mike Phillipsfirstname.lastname@example.org)
MACON — You’ve heard of the mini-dynasty, but what about Crisp Academy’s Madi-dynasty?
The Class A girls teams in GISA simply don’t have an answer for Crisp’s Madi Mitchell, who led Crisp to its third consecutive state title Saturday afternoon at Mercer’s Hawkins Arena.
It wasn’t close, and at times it didn’t seem fair.
Mitchell does that to teams.
In the end, this game — the state title matchup — finished like so many others in Crisp’s run to a three-peat.
It was a complete Crisp rout, a 59-34 statement against Citizens Christian that came with a standing ovation when the starters came out of the game in the fourth quarter and yellow roses and tears of joy for the Crisp kids, who made it look all too easy.
It was Madi-rrific …
She almost outscored Citizens by herself. Mitchell, a 6-foot-1 junior, had 33 points at the end of three quarters and finished with 34. She grabbed 14 rebounds and handed out five assists and even made three steals.
You knew CC was in trouble on the first possession. The Lady Patriots, who ended their season at 30-3, had pressured and harassed teams all year with an unrelenting full-court press. On Crisp’s first possession, Mitchell simply dribbled right through Citizen’s press. She was calm and cool and looked about a patient as someone strolling to the kitchen to get a Coke.
Then she destroyed CC in the paint, where she painted a masterpiece.
“She’s amazing. She’s unbelievable,’’ said Jay Jay Yawn, one of only two seniors for Crisp. “She never stops. She just keeps rolling, just keeps working hard and never quits.’’
Yawn said Mitchell had a little extra motivation.
“They were beating her up pretty bad,’’ she said of Citizens’ physical play. “But she just kept working.’’
And she kept beating CC with an inside game that was simply unstoppable. And when the defense collapsed on her, Mitchell, a Herald Super 6er, kicked the ball out to the open player.
“There was a lot of pressure to win,’’ Mitchell said. “You know everybody wants to beat you. There was pressure because it meant three in a row. It was awful — a bunch of pressure.’’
Mitchell’s mother, Gina — who has done an incredible job coaching Crisp to three titles in a row in just three years — said there was a ton of pressure on her and her team.
“It was a mountain of pressure,’’ she said. “It was on us and on me, and when we won, it just hit me and hit me hard. It was all gone then. It was such a big relief. It was such a great feeling. Winning one (state title) is hard. Winning two is a lot harder, and winning three … It’s hard to explain. It’s the hardest. It’s amazing. It’s awesome. I was so nervous. There was so much pressure.”
You couldn’t tell. Crisp (31-2) never trailed and won its 24th game in a row, despite a tough Lady Patriots team that never quit.
“They were physical and they were aggressive,’’ Madi said. “They were pushing me from the start, and I had to get used to it. But my teammates were great. We had to lob the ball to get it to me, and my teammates did a great job of making those lob passes and getting me into a position to score. They did a wonderful job.”
Madi bagged 10 points in the first quarter and shocked everyone when she nailed a 3-pointer at the buzzer to finish the first half with 17 points. That trey lifted Crisp to a 34-16 lead, and it was almost time to start getting those yellow roses ready for the celebration.
Then Madi put on a show to put this one away early. She simply lifted the Lady Wildcats to the title with an inspiring performance in the third quarter, scoring 16 points and grabbing six rebounds. She went 5 of 7 from the field and made 6 of 6 free throws. She scored the first eight points in the quarter and ended the quarter with an eight-point run to give Crisp a 52-25 lead.
It was over.
Then came the tears — especially from Yawn and Kendall Wilson, the two seniors. Wilson said after the semifinals that a loss in the final would be “heartbreaking,’’ and she played her final game with a lot of heart. Then she said: “It was the best feeling in the world.’’
Yawn scored nine points, handed out six assists and made four steals, while Wilson dropped in five points, ran the floor and helped the offense run all day.
“I can’t say enough about my two seniors,’’ Gina Mitchell said. “You are only as good as your senior leadership. They were awesome all year.’’
Mitchell also had a ton of praise for freshman Parker Krause, who had to step into a starting role when junior point guard Kayla Childers suffered a torn ACL. Krause played like a veteran down the stretch and scored six points, handed out five assists and made four steals for a Crisp team that forced 26 turnovers. Kara White, who scored four points, made four steals and led the quick-hit defense that made life miserable for the Lady Patriots, who had won 12 in a row. Kyndal Day and Jeris Johnson led CC with eight points each.
Late in the fourth quarter, Childers, a junior, entered the game as a large crowd from Cordele gave her and the Crisp kids a standing ovation.
Crisp made a mockery of the state tournament. The Lady Wildcats beat Nathanael Greene, 67-19, ripped Robert Toombs, 65-23, and cruised past Curtis Baptist, 64-27, in the semifinals before running into its toughest test Saturday. Even then, it looked too easy for Madi and her teammates.
They were clinging to roses and hugging each other afterward, embracing the moment and their place in history.
But before they left, Madi had a huge smile and one more thought.
“Now we’ve got to go out and win No. 4,’’ she said. “We have to get 4!’’