Ogden • Syracuse Diante Mitchell stared down his defender while cradling the ball at midcourt and looking for his opening.
When he saw his guy shift right, Mitchell knew in a moment that he had him beat.
Mitchell took what was given, crossed over to his left, then drove the lane and finished with a plus-one.
"I like to set my guys up," Mitchell said. "Slow him down, get him ready and take what ever he gives me."
Mitchell helped Syracuse knock off Hunter 53-36 in the opening round of the Class 5A state tournament Monday.
The mohawked senior has been doing that all season — analyzing every situation and maximizing any advantage he can find. Mitchell used his dizzyingly speed and ball handling to open the court for his fellow Titans and hold Hunter to its lowest scoring output of the season.
"Once we settled down in the second, we were able to keep our lead and build forward," Mitchell said.
Syracuse didn’t play like a team that went .500 in region play. The Titans established the lead with a 3-point shot from Daulton Whatcott and never looked back. They relied on a havoc-wrecking defense that kept Hunter discombobulated and forced 15 turnovers and eight steals.
The real difference in the game was Syracuse’s ability to get to the line. It shot 23 of 29 in the game. Hunter only got to the line four times.
"Games like this come down to free throws, and we were able to knock them down tonight," Mitchell said.
Mitchell led all scorers with 21 points, while Whatcott added 13.
Syracuse coach Justin Nelson was pleased with his team’s ability to play hard and work through some early game nerves. He credited Mitchell for providing the leadership that is able to correct mistakes on the court throughout the game.
"He’s the epitome of a leader," Nelson said. "What he does is contagious—his energy, focus and desire. When one of their own do it, the others follow."
Copyright 2013 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.