Center Mike Mitchell is the tallest player on the Start boys basketball roster.
The 6-foot-4 post with wiry, long arms that make him seem even taller came up big in the biggest game of the season for the Spartans on Thursday night, who took on Bowsher for the City League tournament championship.
Mitchell registered a double-double — scoring 17 points and grabbing a game-high 12 rebounds — to lead Start to a 70-65 triumph before an enthusiastic crowd on hand to see which Guerrero brother would win the league title.
“I just wanted to get out there and do it for my team,” said Mitchell, who also blocked two shots and altered a handful of others while defending Start's basket.
Dion Ivery scored 10 of his 17 points in the second half, including a 4-for-4 effort from the foul line in the fourth quarter, helping Start hold off Bowsher down the stretch. Scott Hicks also finished with 17 points for the Spartans.
Bowsher won two earlier meetings against Start this season. Yet, the Spartans pulled out the victory when it counted the most to give Start coach Gil Guerrero bragging rights in the Guerrero family.
“We wanted to win, I’m not going to lie to you,” said Bowsher coach Joe Guerrero, who is Gil's sibling. “But I'm proud of my brother.”
PHOTO GALLERY: Start defeats Bowsher for CL title
Ivery said the Spartans came out confident, ready, and focused against Bowsher after upsetting league favorite Rogers to get to the championship game. Furthermore, the Spartans were locked in on trying to win it for their coach.
“He talked about it all week at practice,” Ivery said of Gil Guerrero. “He said he’d lost to his brother too many times.”
Bowsher’s Aundre Kizer poured in a game-high 27 points, including 18 in the second half to help the Rebels climb back from a deficit as large as 15 points. Nate Allen added 11 points and Jason Sandridge finished with 10 for Bowsher.
Allen knocked down a 3-pointer to give Bowsher a 50-49 lead with 6 minutes, 19 seconds to play in the fourth quarter. It was only the second time the Rebels led. However, the Spartans scored the next four points at the foul line, including three for Mitchell, to regain the lead and never trail again.
Bowsher went 17 for 32 from the foul line, while Start made 23 of 31. Kizer finished 11 of 22 from the free throw line.
“That’s a big problem when you miss 15 free throws for the game,” Joe Guerrero said.
But the Rebels coach commended his team for fighting all the way until the final second ticked off the clock.
“I love our heart,” Joe Guerrero said. “We played with intensity and passion. When we do that we’re tough to play against.”
Bowsher’s defensive pressure picked up after halftime, and it led to Start committing 15 of its 17 turnovers, including 12 in the third period.
“I think in the second half we played the way we wanted to play,” Joe Guerrero said. “We really didn't change anything in the second half. We wanted to press them, but for some reason we really weren’t able to in the first half.”
But it wasn't quite enough.
Hicks exploded for 12 of his 14 points during the second quarter to help the Spartans take a 35-23 edge into halftime.
Start played the first half in stark contrast to Bowsher. The Spartans moved the ball around and worked their way to plenty of good looks at the rim. Hicks was the beneficiary for many of the Spartans’ baskets coming from close range.
Ivery and Mitchell were also the recipients of passes that led to easy buckets for the Spartans. Ivery and Mitchell accounted for nine and six points, respectively, in the first half.
Bowsher’s offense suffered from a lack of ball movement during the first half. Without it, the Spartans settled for jump shots with most of the their attempts.
However, Kizer and Sandridge came through with nine and six points, respectively, before halftime to keep the Rebels in the game.
Contact Donald Emmons at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6302 or on Twitter @DemmonsBlade.