By Jeff Wallner, Enquirer contributor
The challenge defensively for Princeton’s opponents this season is which Mitchell sister to focus on. Senior guard Kelsey Mitchell is an Ohio State University commit and two-time Enquirer player of the year. On Wednesday night it was hot perimeter shooting by her sister, Chelsea, which sparked a Vikings victory.
Chelsea Mitchell, also a Buckeyes commit, hit five 3-pointers and scored 15 points, and Kelsey added a team-leading 24 points, lifting Princeton, ranked No. 1 in the Enquirer Division I area coaches’ poll, to a 64-52 victory over No. 3 Lakota West in a clash of Greater Miami Conference powers.
“Chelsea’s been shooting the ball well lately. She’s confident in her shot,” said Vikings coach Jill Phillips. “We talked after the loss to Fairmont that we needed to be more balanced. There will be nights when Kelsey’s going to be off. It’s rare.”
Junior guard Lauren Cannatelli scored 17 points, and sophomore guard Nia Staples added 16 for the Firebirds.
The Vikings, who were coming off a 63-54 loss to defending Division I state champion Kettering Fairmont, looked sluggish early in Wednesday’s game.
A strong defensive effort by Cannatelli, a University of Dayton commit, made things tough early on for Kelsey Mitchell, who went scoreless in the first quarter while picking up two fouls.
Chelsea Mitchell hit four 3-pointers in the first half to spark the Vikings. She led all scorers with 12 points in the first half.
Kelsey Mitchell scored six straight points, including a 3-pointer as Princeton erupted for 22 points in the second quarter.
Corneisha Henderson’s deep 3-pointer capped a 9-0 Vikings run, giving them their largest lead, 23-17.
Kelsey Mitchell dished to Carlie Pogue for a layup just before the first-half buzzer, making the score 31-22 at halftime.
The Vikings poured it on in the third quarter with a 12-0 run. Back-to-back baskets by Jada Ballew put Princeton ahead 43-25.
Chelsea Mitchell’s fifth 3-pointer gave the Vikings a 49-29 lead.
“I was open,” said Chelsea, who was 5-for-10 from 3-point range. “It takes a team to win. I think we’re more mature. We can turn the page from a loss.”
STAR OF THE GAME: Kelsey Mitchell overcame a slow start to lead all scorers with 24 points. She hit four 3-pointers and went 10 of 11 from the free-throw line.
VIEW FROM THE SIDELINE: “Ultimately, to stop Princeton, you have to make things difficult for Kelsey,” said West coach Andy Fishman. “Their other players stepped up. We could’ve been a little more disciplined. Might’ve been a different game.”
EXTRA POINTS: Princeton and Lakota West have won or shared 10 of the past 11 Greater Miami Conference titles. According to the league website, the Vikings have won six of the previous seven meetings with the Firebirds and 9 of 16 since 2005. ⬛
Lakota West (3-2) – Wells 1 2 4, Staples 5 4 16, Cannatelli 6 1 17, Whitaker 3 0 6, Adams 2 1 5, Wasan 0 4 4. Totals: 17 12 52.
Princeton (4-1) – K. Mitchell 5 10 24, C. Mitchell 5 0 15, Ballew 2 0 4, Hardin 2 0 4, Pogue 5 1 11, Drake 0 1 1, Henderson 1 0 3, Bruenton 0 2 2. Totals: 20 14 64.
3-pointers: L 6 (Cannatelli 4, Staples 2), P 10 (C. Mitchell 5, K. Mitchell 4, Henderson 1).