Jaland Mitchell’s clutch free throws lead Schurz past Collins in overtime

Jaland Mitchell (23) of Schurz passes the ball down court against Collins. Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times.

Schurz and Collins both won their White conferences last season. For decades, that meant a promotion to the Red Division, the premier division in the Public League.

Things changed this year. The Public League created two super conferences, the Red North-West and the Red South-Central. The longstanding tradition of promotion/relegation (most coaches call it up/down) didn’t happen, leaving Schurz and Collins out in the cold, stuck back in the White.

“It was heartbreaking,” Schurz junior Elijah Clay said.

“You should have seen the kids faces when I had to tell them we weren’t moving up,” Schurz coach James Shelton said. “ It’s hard to tell a kid after they achieved their goal that they aren’t moving up. It was very disappointing.

Shelton said that Public League Sports Administration changed its mind a few times. Originally he was told Schurz was in the White. Shelton fought it that decision and says over the summer he was told his team would be in the Red after all. Then in September he got the final decision that Schurz would be in the White.

“Now they say if we win the White we will be in the Red, but it is hard to believe them,” Shelton said. “We don’t care about moving up anymore. If it happens it happens. We just want to get the best out of our kids and win games.”

The Bulldogs picked up a big non-conference win on Wednesday against the visiting Warriors. Schurz senior Jaland Mitchell made two free throws with two seconds left in overtime to give the Bulldogs a 52-51 victory.

“I had been working in practice on them all day so I felt kind of comfortable, but at the same time I wasn’t comfortable because the game was on the line,” Mitchell said. “So I just had to take my time and finish it as if nobody was there.”

Mitchell had 13 points and eight rebounds. Senior guard Daniel Osorio led Schurz (4-0) with 22 points and was the hero in regulation, driving coast-to-coast to make a buzzer-beating, game-tying bucket.

“We put the ball in his hands, told him to give it to Mitchell for the jump shot if they double-teamed him,” Shelton said. “He did a great job, unbelievable shot.”

Collins’ zone defense was very effective in the first half, thanks to bigs Fre’Quon Loury (six points, 11 rebounds), Jimon Hall (six points, nine rebounds) and Wanya Parks (six points, seven rebounds, five blocks). Jaquan Embrey led Collins (1-1) with 21 points.

“They did us a favor coming out of that a little bit,” Shelton said. “We knew we could beat them with quickness.”

Schurz forward Elijay Clay battled in the paint for the Bulldogs and finished with 14 points and eight rebounds.

“That is probably his best game in his three years here,” Shelton said. “Sometimes he plays a little soft but today he stood up and fought.”

Schurz doesn’t just have to deal with the stigma of playing in the White, it also fights against the perception of North Side basketball.

“That’s three years in a row beating Collins,” Shelton said. “It’s a huge win for us. Everyone always thinks that the north is soft. We want to show them we can play West Side ball, we can play South Side ball. We can play with anyone, we have a great team.

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