As the number-two seed Spartans prepare for this afternoon’s Region 3B Boys Basketball Tournament against Deubrook Area, head coach Joey Mitchell weighs in on the third round matchup, scheduled for 4 p.m. today in Huron.
“It’s going to be a tough game,” said Mitchell, in his second season as head coach of the Spartans. “With past opponents this season, we’ve been the bigger team with Mason (Schelske) and Jacob (Messmer) — and Cooper (Hainy) also gives us size. But their guards are bigger than ours and across the board these guys are bigger than we are.”
Mitchell said that without a doubt though, the match up between Wessington Springs and Deubrook Area will be exciting.
“They like to get up and down the court. We’re focused on keeping them off the rebounds and stopping their transition game,” he said.
Mitchell is quick to point out the Spartan’s advantages as the boys head into the regional contest.
“I’m never going to go against the two big guys — they will run with about anyone in the state,” Mitchell said, referring to Schelske and Messmer. “Plus my team is a little more disciplined, we make better decisions. We’ve really been working on ‘let’s be patient,’ hunting for that great look, not the good look.”
At practice last night, Mitchell said that in addition to getting a lot of shots up and working through the defense, focus was aimed on calming nerves and diving into the mental aspects of the game.
“We made it to the same game last year, we’ve been here before,” he told the boys. “Last year, we showed up for one quarter not four — we just didn’t play the whole game we were capable of playing. Not everyone is lucky to have this opportunity, let’s capitalize on it.”
Mitchell said that this year, the team has further grown into the defensive doctrine he brought to Wessington Springs two years ago.
“I brought in a different defensive philosophy. When I played basketball at the college level, I really bought into playing defense,” Coach Mitchell explained. “There are so many opportunities made out of defense. These boys learned a lot in a little time — a new defensive philosophy that should take five years to process was smooshed into just two years.”
Mitchell said his team’s work ethic made it possible for the boys to grasp the new philosophy and remarked that he gets complimented often on how hard his guys work.
“The last two years they have been there, putting in the work, showing up over the summer, putting in the extra time,” he said.
Add Mitchell’s intensity to the boys’ hard work and the success enjoyed by the Spartans the past two years doesn’t come as a big surprise.
“I’m an intense person. Those guys know my intensity well,” he said. “I saw and shared a post on social media recently that said, ‘Passion looks like aggression toward the unmotivated.’ It hit home with right where I’m at and what I am trying to do.”
Mitchell said he is grateful for the growing community support of the team and hopes a robust Wessington Springs crowd attends today’s game in Huron.
“Just watching our year, we had so many people in the stands and the student section becomes more and more enthusiastic. I see how the crowd affects the team — we go on an eight point run, the crowd gets into it then it feeds into a 16 point run,” he explained. “I want to hank the community — hopefully you can come out and support us. It’s fun to be a part of it.”