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Mitchell topples Eagles

March 24, 2003|by BILL STERNER / Staff Correspondent

The Mitchell College Lady Pequots may not have been as good as gold in their game against the Kirkwood Eagles Friday evening, but they were at least as good as Jade.

Jade Leitao that is.

Mitchell College (25-2) unleashed a furious backcourt attack with marquee guards Leitao and Carmella Suggs and got just enough from its undersized players under the boards to upset the defending NJCAA Division II champion Eagles 77-65 at Hagerstown Community College's athletic complex.

Suggs ended with a game-high 29 points while Leitao had 18 and directed a disciplined floor attack that shot an uncanny 66 percent early on and then hung on to hold Kirkwood at arm's length.

Mitchell will play for the national championship tonight at 8 against Illinois Central, which defeated the Monroe Tribunes earlier Friday. Kirkwood will play in the third-place consolation game against Monroe.

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"I'll tell you, we are the smallest team here size and numbers wise," an elated coach Cas Grygorcewicz said of the Peqouts, who only dress eight players and have no one taller than 5-10. "But that has been our story all year. We are always being told we shouldn't, but we always get it done."

The Pequots wasted little time jumping on the Eagles, taking an early 5-0 lead. And even though Kirkwood (31-5) was able to tie the game twice and even lead once, the Eagles were never very comfortable.

"We didn't shoot the ball and we didn't guard the point," Kirkwood coach Kim Muhl said. "We could probably get away with the lack of guarding, but the shooting was pretty important, especially against this team."

Mitchell inched out to a 40-32 lead at the half, but had the Pequots found the combination that would put the Eagles on their heels.

"Suggs and Leitao have played so well in this tournament," Grygorcewicz said. "They are disciplined and did exactly what they knew would win this game."

The Pequots' frontcourt also battled Kirkwood to a standoff. The normally mobile forwards of the Eagles were handcuffed by Mitchell's Aimee Kuhn, Shanna Cyrus and Kristal Ennist.

Kuhn had 20 points, while the three combined for 17 of the Pequots' 31 rebounds.

And even though Kirkwood outrebounded Mitchell 46-31, Muhl saw the lack of fire under the boards as one reason for the loss.

"Our bigs didn't play smart tonight," Muhl said. "Tess (Meyer) had a turned ankle, but we didn't see the ball as well as we normally do.

"But then again, we don't see quickness like that every day."

As the frustration mounted for the Eagles, the fouls began adding up.

Late in the second half, Kirkwood's Mandy Evans and Vanessa Shrock both fouled out.

"We did several things that were not characteristic of us tonight," Muhl said. "The good thing is we get another chance tomorrow to make it right."

"We made history at Mitchell College tonight," Grygorcewicz said. "To beat Kirkwood, a team of national prominence, is something we never counted on. I know the respect people have for them."

Robin Sullivan led Kirkwood with 14 points.

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