Coming into their contest with the Delta Eagles, the Mississinewa Indians were flying high.
Since starting the season 2-2, the Indians had won 11 straight games, including a Grant Four championship, and were playing exceptional basketball on both ends of the floor.
But with success, on occasion, comes a loss of focus, and that proved to be costly for the Indians in their Saturday matinee against Delta.
Behind a slow start, and an uncharacteristically poor shooting performance, the Indians’ long win streak was snapped in a 56-37 loss to the Eagles.
“We’ve gotten complacent with some things,” Mississinewa Head Coach James Reed said. “When you are on a winning streak, it’s hard to find those things to keep you motivated, and I think we got stuck on that a little bit.”
Delta took control of the contest early, building a 10-0 lead in the first 3:37 of the contest. Mississinewa did not score their first points of the game until the 4:23 mark, as the Eagles built a 13-6 first quarter advantage.
Mississinewa’s offense, which has been their strength all season, never got going on Saturday, in part due to the Indians’ foul trouble. Anthony Horton, Colin Yoder, and Hayden Ulerick, all starters for Mississinewa, each picked up two quick fouls in the opening period, never allowing the Indians to establish any sort of rhythm.
“We were trying to pick up the defensive energy along with being a little more aggressive offensively,” Reed said. “Very early, Anthony had two, and then Hayden and Colin got two fouls, and then we got focused on officials instead of the job that we were doing.”
The Eagles kept up their momentum going in the second quarter, essentially putting the game out of reach. In the quarter, they shot six-of-11 from the field, and all six makes from the free throw line. Furthermore, they hit their first five three-pointers of the frame, building a 28-10 advantage with 4:42 to go in the first half.
The Indians used a quick 7-0 run to trim Delta’s lead to 11, but another three from the Eagles, together with a free throw, put them up 32-17 at halftime.
As a team, Mississinewa is shooting near 60 percent for the season, but in the first half, they shot just seven-of-21 and zero-of-nine from the perimeter.
“We are really good, but only if we bring that best version of ourselves to practice, and only if we bring that best version of ourselves to games,” Reed said. “This afternoon, we came [out] and hoped to win instead of taking control and making sure that we won. That let Delta gain confidence on our home court, and when they hit some shots, it was hard to turn that momentum back around.”
The Eagles did not relinquish their double-digit lead in the second half, leading by as many as 20 before settling for the 17-point triumph.
For the game, Mississinewa shot just 14-of-46 from the floor (30.4 percent) and a woeful two-of-20 (10 percent) from the perimeter.
“If we want to compete at the level we want to compete at, we can’t be a team that comes out and relies on shots to motivate us and give us energy,” Reed said. “I thought we came out flat, and Delta did a good job…of really taking control of the possessions and taking control of the game. By the time we got warmed up and started playing like ourselves, we couldn’t play like ourselves because we were down.”
Every team experiences a bad game from time to time. They have clunkers. They put forth bad performances.
But what separates the good teams from the great ones is the ability to handle adversity. And with six days to prepare for conference foe Frankton, Reed knows that the team has to get back to what has made them so successful throughout the course of this season.
“The first thing that we need to focus on…is each other,” Reed said. “We need to get that back to the number one focus of what we are doing. We can’t be worried about ourselves – we need to worry about our teammates. The second thing is we have to become tough. We weren’t tough this week, and they learned a good lesson. It doesn’t matter how good you are. You can’t go through the motions – you got to be able to compete and push through tough times.
“And the third thing is that we have to become a team…that stays consistent in what we do. We just weren’t that tonight. We have to come together, and we have to have some pieces lead this team on the court.”
Tai McClung led the Indians with 13 points, while Landen Swanner and Horton each finished with seven. Conner Bedwell paced the Eagles, and all scorers, with 18 points.