South Charlotte

Providence Day girls win title, lose leader

Tiffany Mitchell was conflicted as she left the court at Raleigh's Ravenscroft School.

She was happy, having just helped the Providence Day girls' basketball team win its third straight state championship, beating Greensboro Day by 24 points in the final.

But a part of her was also sad; after four years of playing varsity basketball, this would be the last time she'd wear the Chargers uniform.

"It was a very emotional night," said Mitchell, 17. "I didn't know if I should be happy because we won or sad because that was my last game playing."

Mitchell, a senior, is arguably one of the best girls' basketball players to come out of the Charlotte area. She's ranked nationally as the No. 46 recruit in her class by ESPN and will play next year at South Carolina. She is one of six players in the running for the Gatorade Player of the Year award in North Carolina (sophomore teammate Jatarie White is another), and after scoring 20 points and grabbing nine rebounds in the state championship game, Mitchell was named to the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association 3A all-state team, something she's done all four years of her high school career.

Mitchell may miss Providence Day, but Providence Day girls' basketball coach Josh Springer is really going to miss Mitchell. For the fifth-year coach, Mitchell is the first player to be on varsity all four years.

"We're obviously sad to see her go," said Springer. "I haven't even fathomed the day yet where we run a practice without her because that hasn't happened in so long."

Mitchell finished her career at Providence Day with nearly 2,100 points, but it wasn't always easy for the 5-foot-10 guard.

Her freshman year, the Chargers lost in the state championship to Hickory Grove. It's the only time in the last eight years that Providence Day didn't win the state championship. That summer, Mitchell tore her ACL, keeping her from trying out for the U16 national team. She was back to full strength by the state championship game, where she scored 30 points to help the Chargers beat Hickory Grove.

As a junior, she scored 20 points to win a second state championship last year against conference rival Charlotte Christian.

This year, the Chargers wanted to win on a bigger stage: they wanted to be recognized nationally and, in the beginning, they were. Providence Day was ranked in the ESPN Fab 50 poll for the first six weeks of the season.

The Chargers played a tough schedule and losses to Thomasville Prep (twice) and Carolina Day (the NCISAA 2A state champion, which Providence Day beat later in the season) dropped Providence Day out of the rankings.

"We wanted to go out and really challenge ourselves," Springer said. "My philosophy has always been that I never want the state championship game to be the toughest game we've played in all year."

After the tough schedule, the Chargers (29-4) won their first two playoff games by 39 and 41 points. In the semifinals, Providence trailed by two to Rabun Gap in the first half before Mitchell hit a three-point shot at the halftime buzzer. The Chargers went on to win 51-30.

In the first half of the championship game against Greensboro Day, a team the Chargers beat by just three points earlier in the season, Mitchell struggled, taking contested shots and scoring just four points in the first half.

Mitchell settled down in the second half and finished the game with 20 points and nine rebounds. White led the team with 21 points.

Now that the season's over, Mitchell said she's excited - and nervous - about playing college basketball next year. "That's something most people can't say, that they've won three championships in a row," Mitchell said. "For me to be able to experience that is a pretty big deal."