Toughened by playing one of the most challenging schedules in Southern California high school basketball, Eastvale Roosevelt went to Sacramento on Friday to play in the CIF state Division I championship game prepared for anything.
That's what happens when you've faced Corona Centennial five times and taken on Santa Ana Mater Dei, La Verne Damien, Chino Hills and Las Vegas Bishop Gorman, among others. Whatever Union City James Logan tried against Matt Mitchell & Co., the Mustangs responded just the way you'd expect a battle tested championship team would do.
They were cool, calm and persistent with their effort. They played at Golden 1 Center as if they were veterans even though it was their first state championship game appearance.
Roosevelt opened a seven-point halftime lead and came away with a 54-45 victory.
Leading the way was Mitchell, a 6-foot-6, 215-pound senior who became one of top 10 players in Southern California this season. Mitchell finished with 24 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks. He was nine of 10 on free throws. His toughness under the basket and his ability to make free throws made him invaluable for the 26-8 Mustangs.
It was as if he reached peak form during the playoffs.
"I felt it," Mitchell said. "All the hard work paid off."
Logan cut a 13-point deficit to 42-36 early in the fourth. Roosevelt responded by getting a basket from David Agba, two free throws by Mitchell and a dunk by Mitchell for a 12-point lead.
"I knew we might have had a state championship team right from the beginning when we scheduled all the toughest tournaments in the state and in Nevada," Coach Stephen Singleton said. "We had to do that to prepare for his title run."
Singleton became the third coach in CIF history to win state championships at two different schools. He won at Compton Dominguez in 2001.
Making a major contribution to the title run was senior point guard Jemarl Baker, a Cal signee. For two years, he's been a standout. He came close to transferring to Santa Ana Mater Dei last summer.
His decision to stay was the most important moment of the off season
"I really like to think we're a family and that even though he was going to leave, he realized we've all come together and we all have the same mission," teammate Brennon Wade said.