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Dibrell downs Eastside
Jordin Mitchell had 18 points, over a dozen rebounds and three clutch free throws late to help Dibrell beat Eastside 34-29 Thursday.

As each free throw swished through the net and the lead continued to swell, Jordin Mitchell could feel the championship coming. His swagger and confidence reached peak levels in the fourth quarter, when Dibrell needed it most. Once the lanky forward iced the game at the line, all there was left to do for the Wildcats was celebrate.

Behind a dominant double-double from Mitchell and a great comeback in the final period, Dibrell claimed the 7-8 grade preseason tournament championship. Mitchell scored a game-high 18 points, leading his Wildcats to a 34-29 win over the Eastside Bulldogs.

Eastside, led by a talented big man - Lex Winfree - as well, thought it may be able to pull off a sweep of the preseason tournament crowns on its homecourt, but the Wildcats had other plans down the stretch. Dibrell, with Mitchell leading the charge, was absolutely relentless on the offensive glass and swallowed up the Bulldog attack on the other end.

Dylan Delong pushed Eastside in front 29-24 with a late 3-pointer that felt like a dagger midway through the fourth, but Dibrell took over from there. The Wildcat comeback was aided by Winfree, who was also close to a double-double with 12 points and a handful of boards, fouled out in the final three minutes.

Without its offensive hub, Eastside’s offense couldn’t come up with enough buckets to turn back the Wildcats. Connor Cantrell, the tournament MVP, and Mitchell took turns hitting clutch shots for Dibrell, while Cason Davis and Andre Meitling also had their lone buckets in the fourth quarter to fuel the comeback.

Mitchell had a putback to finally put Dibrell on top, then he sank three late free throws for good measure while pumping up his teammates – and many vocal Dibrell supporters – down the stretch. The Wildcats were able to turn over Eastside twice in the final minute to ensure the win, which gave Bryson Elrod his first championship with the program.

“The boys have been putting a lot of work in this offseason and it is starting to pay off,” said Elrod, who has hit the ground running as the new coach at Dibrell.

The wild win for Dibrell came just two nights after the squad had to survive overtime with Irving College to advance. Cantrell was the closer in the semifinals, hitting two free throws with 0.3 seconds left in OT to push the Wildcats past the Tigers 30-28.

They proved to be two gigantic free throws as the Wildcats rode the wave of momentum into the finals. Now, after winning the preseason championship, Elrod knows his team will need to keep improving if it wants to do more damage over the next two months.

“Moving forward, we have to remember being on top is a hard thing to do and we can get knocked off any given moment. We must work hard, practice and keep finishing strong,” said Elrod.

Following the championship, Cantrell, Mitchell and Mietling were named all-tournament from the Wildcats. Winfree, Dean Cooper and Jackson Gunter (nine important points in the team’s 22-19 win over Morrison in the semifinals) earned all-tournament honors from Eastside. Others recognized for their strong play in the preseason tournament were Rylon Morrison and Kristopher Robledo (Morrison), Anden Green (Irving College), Ryder Gilispie (Centertown) and Clayton Keele (Boyd).