Having gone nearly a month without a victory, it seemed fitting that Wayne had to wait a little bit longer to find a way to win again.
The Generals, fighting a battle of confidence, not to mention taking care of the ball, did not lead Bishop Dwenger until overtime but pulled away in the extra session for a 67-66 victory Friday night. The Generals improved to 6-4, ended a three-game losing streak and remained in the SAC race at 2-2.
More importantly, it ended weeks of frustration.
That was the biggest win of our season, said Wayne coach Aaron Rehrer, whose team had not won since the opening round of the SAC tournament on Dec. 26. We’ve been slumping a little bit, guys haven’t been playing well. With high school kids it’s tough to keep them motivated if you don’t win this game tonight.
Motivation has been hard to come by too since the loss last week of senior point guard Jescus Mitchell to an illness. Rehrer has been working three sophomores into his rotation more, as well, leaving most of the load to be carried by Mitchell’s brothers, Justin and Levi, and Cameron Leshore.
The three seniors carried the Generals when it mattered most against the host Saints. Trailing from the jump, it was Levi Mitchell’s rebound basket with 20 seconds remaining in regulation that tied the game at 55 and sent things to overtime after Dwenger missed a last-second shot.
Levi Mitchell scored four points, and Leshore added a layup to open the overtime to give the Generals their first lead at 61-55. Dwenger later got as close as 65-64 on Kyle Hartman’s layup with 41 seconds to go, but Justin Mitchell’s answer with 32 seconds left sealed the victory.
It was Justin Mitchell, Wayne’s leading scorer at 20 points per game, who was a picture of the Generals’ frustration early, going scoreless through three quarters. But it was his 10-point burst in the fourth quarter that gave Wayne the jump it needed.
Really I don’t look to score any more; I look to be a facilitator, he said. I know when we play teams they say, Stop Justin Mitchell,’ so there’s always two players on me and there’s got to be an open player. I just do the little things – rebound, assists, stuff like that.
When it’s time to take over, I’ll be there.
Justin Mitchell finished with 12 points, and Levi Mitchell had 19. Leshore, coming off a 30-point performance in a loss to Norwell on Wednesday, led all scorers with 22.
He’s really putting the team on his back, Justin Mitchell said of Leshore. It’s his team really, and I tell him that. If he does this every night, he’s probably one of the best guards in the state. He’s one of the best I’ve seen.
Grady Eifert led the Saints (5-3, 2-2) with 21, Hartman finished with 17 and Jeff Mugg added 10.