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For a veteran team that has won games in a multitude of ways over the last few seasons, Friday's Senior Night contest against Carroll presented a new challenge for Class 4A No. 4 North Side.
With Oosha Mitchell sidelined with an ankle injury and Myluv Sutton and Mike Davis on the bench after fouling out, the Redskins held a six-point lead over the Chargers midway through the fourth quarter with their three bigs out of the game and five guards on the floor.
One of the keys to threatening North Side this year has been to get its forwards out of the game. With that scenario coming to fruition against Carroll, how would the Redskins react?
“Our coach, he really emphasized rebounding (to us),” junior Sean McGee said. “We had five guys out there and I think our tallest guy was maybe (6-foot-3).”
North Side (19-1) did not just hold par with Carroll without its forwards, it thrived as it significantly outscored the Chargers down the stretch for a 71-57 victory.
The win was keyed by an 11-1 run by the Redskins immediately after both Sutton and Davis fouled out and Carroll made a pair of free throws to cut the lead to 57-51.
Senior Jeremy Jones hit a three-pointer off of a loose ball that kicked to him and McGee followed it up on the next possession after a Carroll miss with a pair of free throws to spur the run and push the lead back into double digits.
“We have emphasized team, team, team and together, together, together all year,” North Side coach Shabaz Khaliq said. “But it's the same group of guys that play mostly. Tonight, it wasn't. Tonight it was a different group and we were still able to be successful.
While the usual suspects poured in points for the Redskins with Tre'Vion Crews scoring 25 and McGee 17, other players stepped up late. Junior Marco Lee played solid minutes in the fourth quarter and finished with five points while 6-6 sophomore Deon Palmer gave the Redskins much-needed size in the paint.
“You don't have to help us, but you can't hurt us,” said Khaliq about playing sparingly-used reserves. “Being able to throw Deon in there for a couple minutes … for him to play big for us is important.”
Perhaps more important for the Redskins is the long-term health of Mitchell. He injured his ankle after landing amongst a group of players around the basket in the first quarter.
He needed help to the locker room at halftime but was able to walk gingerly on the ankle in the second half. He did not return to the game.
“We will see what it looks like (Saturday) and how bad it is,” Khaliq said. “Usually overnight you will know.”
Mitchell was able to walk out of the locker room following the game with a small but noticeable limp.
Both North Side and Carroll have quick turnarounds today. The Chargers (13-7) host Class 4A No. 10 Indianapolis North Central this afternoon at 3 p.m., a team that features sophomore Eron Gordon, the brother of former Indiana Hoosier Eric Gordon.
Meanwhile, the Redskins will host Indianapolis Broad Ripple (6-11) at 7:30 p.m.
If North Side can win one of its two remaining regular season contests, it will be the first Redskins team to win 20-plus games prior to the postseason since the 1977-78 campaign.