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TACOMA — All losses sting but Olympic’s 43-39 season-ending loss to the Renton Indians in a West Central District 2A girls basketball game will linger for a while.

Senior guard Kiki Mitchell finished with a game-high 21 points and was everywhere on defense, creating turnovers and finishing layups to keep her Trojans alive in an elimination game at Wilson High School Tuesday night.

Olympic guard Kiki Mitchell drives past Renton’s Tamika Barbee-Welch in a district playoff game Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018 at Wilson High. Mitchell finished with 21 points in a 43-39 loss.
(Annette Griffus/West Sound SportsPlus)

Olympic gave itself chances in the waning minutes, cutting Renton’s lead to 40-36 with 1:02 left but now the Trojans were also in a fight against the clock.

Needing Oly’s shooters to come up big, assistant coach Barry Bandara looked at Brilee Triggs before she re-entered the game and told her “Brilee, we need a three.”

The junior guard nodded yes and then delivered. Triggs nailed the long-range shot from the left side with 37 seconds remaining as the Trojans’ bench erupted, making it a three-point game 42-39.

Renton missed a free throw on its next possession after a foul was called on Triggs, and with 23 seconds remaining, and needing another three to tie, the Trojans worked the ball around the perimeter looking for a shot. Mitchell created enough space off her defender to put up a shot with 12 seconds left but it hit the front of the rim and Renton grabbed the rebound. Oly was forced to foul the Indians to try and get the ball back, but a final free throw by Renton with 5.5 seconds left put the game out of reach despite a last desperation shot by the Trojans.

It was a game of what-ifs and should-have-been’s for Olympic.

What if the easy shots had fallen into the basket instead of rolling out of the rim at Wilson High School? What if players had taken less passes and put up a shot? What if they had managed to get that offensive rebound and reset the shot clock?

The Trojans felt they should have been the team to celebrate as the final buzzer sounded and their season could continue. Instead, they’ll have to recognize it wasn’t their night and that might be the hardest part to swallow.

“In a game like this, we prepared all weekend,” Mitchell said. “We had the playbook. We had the skills. We had the mindset. It just didn’t fall for us tonight. Shots didn’t fall for us early and they didn’t fall for us at the end.

“There wasn’t one second in my mind that I thought, ‘Oh, we’re done,'” Mitchell continued. “It was in our hands the whole time.”

Olympic guard Kiki Mitchell eyes the basket before she makes a free throw as teammate and sister Alannah Mitchell looks on in a district playoff game at Wilson High Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018. Olympic lost 43-39.
(Annette Griffus/West Sound SportsPlus)

Olympic head coach Bryan Hanley said the malady that plagued the Trojans (13-9) this season was their inability to recognize how good of a team they were. That manifested itself when shots didn’t fall, frustration set in and they stepped away from a carefully crafted gameplan.

“We passed up a ton of open shots,” Hanley said. “Some of that was passing up a shot looking for a better shot but ultimately it was a failure of the offense to create open shots. And when they did they didn’t take them.”

The low-scoring game driven by the defense was in Olympic’s favor early on. It’s the style and pace of play that suited the Trojans but the offensive output was sporadic. The focus remained on the defense to carry Oly through but the consistency wasn’t there.

For four periods Hanley pleaded with his players to “get up” on defense.

“Defense from six feet away is not defense,” he said. “When we turned up the heat … the game spun in our favor but we didn’t consistently do that.”

Hanley said some of that was because the players “were intimidated by what they heard about Renton,” it’s size, athleticism, etc. Yet the Trojans were never down by more than 6-8 points at any one time.

It just felt like 18 points.

Olympic trailed at halftime, 21-18, and Renton opened the third period with a 3-pointer to increase its lead. But Mitchell answered right back with a three of her own and then forced a turnover, picked up the loose ball and converted it on the other end for a layup to cut the Indians’ lead 24-23.

“I can’t say enough about Kiki,” Hanley said. “Her motor, her intensity, her tenacity, her willingness to take this whole team on her shoulders and attempt to make it happen …”

Despite Mitchell’s strong play, scoring droughts hit Olympic at the most inoportune time and Renton took advantage. The Indians hit enough buckets to slowly creep the score up and up and up until they led 38-32 with 2:18 left in the fourth.

Mitchell forced a turnover on Renton’s Chaya Herron, who was upset with the call and spiked the ball. She immediately regretted it as she was assessed a technical foul, but the Trojans couldn’t convert either free throw and the opportunity was missed.

Olympic senior Dejah Coleman looks to pass against Renton’s defense in a district girls basketball playoff game Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018, at Wilson High. Olympic lost 43-39.
(Annette Griffus/West Sound SportsPlus)

Knowing it was a winnable game is the most difficult part, Mitchell said, adding she’s sad to miss out on what the Trojans will be able to do the next few years.

“I’m excited to see what these girls will do next year,” she said. “This year was a transition year and so it sucks to be a part of that. I think that’s what’s frustrating. I can see how good these girls are going to be and I just want to be a part of that.”

While disappointed in the loss, Hanley said he wasn’t disillusioned. Far from it.

“My glass is half full,” he said. “I can’t wait to get back in the gym.”

 

 

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