By Eric Clutter | Correspondent
It was a quick turnaround for Kent Roosevelt and Aurora when the two met Saturday afternoon at Aurora High School.
The night before, both the Rough Riders and Greenmen had lost close games, Aurora's being a one-point loss to Kenston at the buzzer.
So when the opening tip was tossed in the air at 1 p.m., there were some tired legs for two young squads looking for wins during seasons dedicated to growth and development.
Corey Mitchell, one of the few seniors on the floor for either side, continued his scoring spree of late, torching the nets for 23 points to lead Roosevelt to a 62-50 non-league victory over the Greenmen.
"In my 13 years now with the varsity program," said Roosevelt coach Ben Dunlap, "I don't remember too many Saturday games at all, let alone a 1 p.m. start. I asked these guys to come -- our bus left at 9 after a tough loss (to Springfield) last night -- and support our freshmen that played at 10, to support our program. I have absolutely no complaints; they earned this win. All the credit in the world goes to them."
Mitchell, who has averaged just under 22 points in the previous three contests, hit 10-of-12 shots from the field, with one of his misses a desperation 3-point attempt at the first-half buzzer.
The 6-foot-1 Mitchell had 18 points in the first half. That effort, coupled with nine points from teammate Myles Wright, spurred the visitors to a 34-20 lead at the half.
"I thought we did a very good job in the first half of feeding him the ball," said Dunlap. "We drew up a couple different plays to get him isolated. He knocked down some shots. He is a very good shooter off the dribble. A lot of high school kids haven't mastered that art yet. When he gets going, he can go with the best of them."
With Mitchell demanding more defensive attention from the Greenmen (2-18) in the second half, Wright, who finished with 18 points on 8-of-13 shooting, and fellow frontcourt partner Joseph Watts picked up the scoring slack, combining for 14 points to help extend the Rough Riders' lead to as many as 20 points with 2:30 to play in the third quarter, 47-27.
The Greenmen, however, regrouped and responded with the game's next 10 points, narrowing the deficit to 47-37 following a Nick Reminder 15-foot turnaround that opened the fourth period.
Aurora continued to chip away at the lead and pulled within five points with two minutes showing on the clock. However, Watts cleaned up Mitchell's only other missed attempt of the afternoon to make the difference seven points and close out Aurora's comeback bid as well as Roosevelt's five-game losing skid.
Besides Mitchell's big first half, the other decisive factor on the afternoon was Roosevelt's ownership of the glass. The Rough Riders (5-13) finished with a plus-15 advantage in rebounding.
While Wright and Watts combined for 13 boards, it was 5-10 sophomore guard Phillip Grant who led the Rough Riders with 11 caroms. He also added seven points.
"We've been asking our guards to rebound all year," said Dunlap. "At times, our big guys are the only ones that seem to be rebounding. P.J. Grant did an excellent job rebounding.
"We've asked P.J. to kind of change the way he is playing, and he is progressing. The last month or so, he is doing everything that we have asked him. He is truly becoming a varsity guard. It is fun to watch him grow."
The rebounding discrepancy was also on the mind of Aurora coach Jim Wallish.
"I told my guys it is all about who gets to the ball first," said the first-year coach. "And for the first half, three quarters, we didn't get to the ball first."
Reminder led Aurora with 13 points and also sank three 3s. Fellow senior Ben Branscom had 10 for the Greenmen, who were minus one of their leading scorers, Paul Kollat.
Much like his counterpart at Roosevelt, Wallish is very happy with how his team has worked and matured as the season has progressed, despite not having many wins to show for their effort.
"In all honesty, it has not been difficult at all," he said. "Every day these kids come in and practice harder than the teams I've had that have been successful. You normally think of a 2-18 team and you think of kids arguing with each other. It's the exact opposite; if you came in and watched us practice, you would think that we are a successful basketball team."