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Etiwanda stays unbeaten with impressive rout of Windward, avoids catastrophic injury following scare: 3 takeaways

The Eagles had four players in double-figures despite losing senior Daisia Mitchell to injury.

NORCO– Etiwanda emphatically defeated Windward 69-34 in the final game of the Norco Extravaganza on Saturday to move to 14-0 and separate itself further as the top high school girls basketball team in California.

More importantly to the Eagles, they've received magnificent and surprising news since the game ended that their senior captain isn't out for the season following a horrible fall she took on a fast break. Here are three takeaways from the game:

INJURY TO MITCHELL TAKES CENTER STAGE; EAGLES GET GREAT NEWS AFTERWARDS

In the second quarter, St. Mary's commit and Nike TOC MVP Daisia Mitchell went down with a knee injury that appeared to be catastrophic. The game stopped for a particularly long time, and the concern was universal throughout the entire gym for the rest of the night. No matter how unstoppable the Eagles were for most of the game, the devastation of the injury remained the prevalent theme of the night.

A 6-0 wing with two-way versatility and a well-rounded skill set, Mitchell only played three games as a junior due to a broken leg, which led to a lengthy rehab process.

"She's our captain, been with us all four years.... it's tough," said head coach Stan Delus following the game.

"She is our fabric, she knows the culture of our program, she's the leader, she's the guidance of us, because my kids are young. She's our one senior that can make sure that our underclassmen stay under control and stay focused. To lose her is a blow."

Mitchell went down about halfway through the second quarter, at which point Etiwanda's lead was still in single-digits. After the game had been stopped for a long time, she asked the team to come over to her so she could relay a message.

Delus said Mitchell told them, "You guys have whatever it takes to get over the hump. If I come back or not, you guys got it all there to make sure that you guys get this done. I will be fine... I will love you and support you, I'll make sure that I'm still there and leading you guys. Just know that you're good for a reason because of your talents."

The team responded by upping its lead some 15 points in the second half of the quarter. Despite some stretches of the game that were sloppy – relative to Etiwanda's sky-high bar and expectations – the young Eagles' fortitude to improve their level of play following the injury was admirable.

"I'm not shocked by their effort. I just want us to do a better job of staying under control a little bit at times. We settled in and played our style of basketball, defending and getting easy baskets off deflections, disrupting their offense, and we got back to that. It lets me know that we can continue the season. I'm praying that hopefully there's no ligament damage... one thing with our program is, it's 'next man up', it's always been that way, and we're going to continue. Everybody's just got to step up a little bit more for each other, and I think we'll be okay... I know that they'll give me their all, and that's all I can ask for."

However, long after their 35-point win was sealed up, imaging scans showed that the injury – while still brutal – wasn't nearly as severe as feared, and Mitchell is only expected to be out for two or three weeks.

BUSINESS AS USUAL FOR ETIWANDA IN THE SCORE COLUMN

While the contest itself was anything but business as usual for the Eagles, the result wasn't. One of the top-ranked teams in the country and the consensus top team on the West Coast, Etiwanda cruised past yet another elite opponent on the season, this time one that is arguably a top-five team in the Southern Section and top-15 team in the state.

Etiwanda forced 14 turnovers in the first half alone, and held Windward to its lowest score since 2015. Kennedy Smith led all scorers with 18 points, Aliyahna "Puff" Morris scored 15 points, Talia Garner scored 12, Destiny Agubata added 10, and Sa'lah Hemingway nine. Despite the numerous positives Windward showed, there weren't any areas of the game in which the Eagles didn't outclass them. Windward played Etiwanda close for much of the first quarter, but the Eagles' 16-9 lead after one quarter swelled to 39-16 at halftime.

WINDWARD'S PROMISE IS CAN'T-MISS

The Wildcats were counted out by many – including us – from holding their status as a clear Open Division team in the Southern Section after losing some key seniors, 5-star G Juju Watkins, and another talented guard in Serenity Johnson over the offseason. But they've proven the doubters wrong as a no-brainer top-20 team in the state all season. Despite getting blown out by Etiwanda, Windward clearly belonged on the same stage, and remained poised, competitive, and positive even when the game was far out of hand.

Samari Bankhead was held to four points by Etiwanda's long, blanketing defense, but still looked like one of the top freshman PF prospects in the state or country. Junior PG Skye Belker scored 10 points, and senior G Maya Stokes led the Wildcats with 11. Like Etiwanda, Windward is young, talented, and locked in to remain elite for years to come.

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