Shiloh Christian senior forward Jaden Mitzel is 6-foot, 2-inches tall. Just don’t tell him that.
Mitzel played bigger than that on Saturday, so big that he led the Skyhawks to a 66-64 boys’ Class B basketball win over second-ranked and previously unbeaten Rugby.
Mitzel scored 31 points and grabbed 14 rebounds against a team with a front line that went 6-7, 6-6 and 6-5. His 14 boards were four more than any Rugby player. He also had two 3-pointers, two assists and two steals.
With Mitzel leading the way, the Skyhawks outrebounded the much-taller Panthers 42-38.
“We talked in the locker room about playing with confidence and with heart and he has as much heart as anybody I’ve ever seen,” Shiloh coach Brad Miller said.
“It was crazy … like David and Goliath,” Mitzel said. “They’re 6-6 and 6-7, it’s crazy. You have to work harder and put more effort in.”
Twenty-two seconds into the game, Trey Brunelle -- who finished with 11 points -- buried a 3-pointer that gave Shiloh a lead it never relinquished. The Skyhawks had three of their 10 3-pointers while taking a 17-9 lead after one quarter. They were 10-for-26 from long range.
“We knew they were going to shoot a lot of threes,” Mitzel said. “You just have to play good defense against them.”
Rugby, despite a noticeable size advantage, was content to stay outside the arc rather than work inside. The Panthers made just six of 23 attempts beyond the arc and hit just 40 percent from the field overall.
Every time the Panthers put a couple of baskets together, the Skyhawks would cut them off with a clutch basket. Luke Wanzek had all four of his 3-pointers and all 12 points in the first half, which ended dramatically.
Wanzek drained a 3-pointer with 33 second left and Devan Michels coverted a three-point play with 22 seconds left. Wanzek responded with another three with just three seconds left, and Rugby’s Trace Goven beat the clock with a banked in half-court 3-pointer as time ran out to make it 39-29.
The last three of Mitzel’s 10 points in the third quarter came with 30 seconds left and gave Shiloh a 56-43 lead heading into the last quarter.
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Then it got interesting.
The Panthers opened the fourth quarter with a six-point run, their longest of the night, and it was suddenly a seven-point game. Mitzel stopped that with a pair of free throws. That would be the last time Shiloh shot free throws well. From that point on, the Skyhawks made one of two from the stripe four times, missed once one time, and missed twice once.
All the while the Panthers were closing in, adding two or three points for every Shiloh single.
Cole Slaubaugh stole the ball in the Shiloh end and raced in for a breakaway slam that made it 62-60 with 1:55 left.
Mitzel answered with a short jumper before 6-7 Jaden Hamilton fouled out, taking his 15 points with him. Mitzel hit a free throw before Dawson Schepp buried a 3-pointer to make it 65-63. Mitzel’s free throw with 19 second to play made it a three-point game.
Braiden Kuhn could have put the game away with two free throws. Instead, his luck was like the others and he missed two shots with 9.6 seconds left.
Rugby brought the ball down the floor and called timeout with 5.1 seconds to play.
Shiloh had a foul to give and Mitzel used it on Goven on the inbound with 1.7 showing on the clock. On the next inbound, Mitzel fouled Goven before he could turn and shoot with just a half-second on the clock.
Goven made the first bonus free throw, then threw the ball hard off the rim grabbed it and shot it in as time ran out. But he had crossed the free throw line too soon and the shot was disallowed.
Time ran out on the inbounds play.
Goven led Rugby with 18 points. Michels had 10 points and 10 rebounds. But this night belonged to Mitzel and the Skyhawks.
“We knew they would play it right to the end,” Miller said. “We talked about it at halftime, that they weren’t going to go away. They were undefeated for a reason. They’re definitely one of the best teams in the state.”
On this night, so were the eighth-ranked Skyhawks.
“I think it’s all heart,” Mitzel said. “I trust my teammates and I’m working harder than my opponents, and if I do that, I know I’m going to win.”