The two huge scratches on Tiffany Mitchell’s face were more than visible. They had a bright-red hue to them, the kind that results when blood comes rushing to the surface after a hard scrape from fingernails.
But Mitchell didn’t mind. In her world – the one in which basketball is played with an all-or-nothing aggressiveness – the scratches were badges of honor.
“I got hit about 10 times in the face,” a smiling Mitchell said shortly after her Providence Day girls team rolled past Charlotte Christian, 59-32, on Jan. 27.
“We knew it would be an intense game, but that’s fine. We just have to keep playing ball.”
Chargers coach Josh Springer said that’s the only way the University of South Carolina signee has gone about playing the game during her four seasons on the Providence Day varsity squad.
“She’s fearless – she’s the most competitive athlete I’ve ever coached,” said Springer, who also has spent time at the college level.
“She has a winner’s mind-set, she has a never-say-die mind-set. When it’s on the line, she knows it’s time for her to make plays.”
And last week’s game against Charlotte Christian was one of the latest examples.
Early on, the game was close. Providence Day struggled to make baskets, and Mitchell herself was cold, even once shooting an air ball from deep. Then, Mitchell decided to use defense to get herself, and thus her team, going. She intercepted passes, she dove violently for loose balls, and she chased down Charlotte Christian players who appeared destined for easy, breakaway layups. Soon, the Chargers were up by double digits.
The Knights, though, kept fighting and trimmed the lead to eight points late in the first half. But just before the buzzer sounded, Mitchell hurried down the court and launched a 3-pointer that swished into the basket, giving the Chargers a 26-15 lead at the break. They never looked back.
When it was over, Mitchell had nearly registered a triple-double, collecting 28 points, eight rebounds and seven steals. The 5-foot-11 senior guard had helped prove that there is a tremendous chasm between the No. 2 team in South Charlotte Weekly’s Southern Mecklenburg Super 7 rankings (Providence Day) and the No. 4 team (Charlotte Christian).
“We knew this was a big game, and we really wanted it,” Mitchell said. “We just went out there and tried to focus on defense. We knew the scoring was going to come.
“I struggled in the first quarter, basically missing a lot of easy putbacks and things like that. My teammates picked it up, though, when I wasn’t hitting shots. They told me that my shot was going to come and that they trusted me to keep shooting. It ended up pretty good for us.”
Scoring-wise, this is best season of Mitchell’s career, as she is averaging a team-leading 19.8 points. But she’s also contributing 6.8 rebounds, four steals and 2.9 assists. But to Mitchell, the statistics won’t mean much if they don’t help the Chargers win their third consecutive state championship.
“I want it bad,” she said. “We lost my freshman year – which I think we should’ve won, by the way, but that’s the way it goes.
“But having three rings would be better than having two rings. It’s definitely a priority for me to get that before I leave high school.”