If Monday’s exhibition win over King College is any indication, the East Tennessee State women’s basketball squad could be a team of Destiny this season.
With half her teammates on the sidelines injured, Destiny Mitchell scored 18 points and made five steals to lead the Lady Bucs to a 65-47 victory over the Lady Tornado.
“It was good considering the fact we only had eight players (dressed),” said Mitchell, a sophomore guard who posted 11 double-doubles last season before suffering a knee injury. “I knew I had to step up for us to get the win.
“I just wanted to help on offense, defense, just any way I could.”
Lady Bucs coach Karen Kemp saw some positives from Monday’s exhibition, like her team making 11 of 13 free throws and using their size advantage to outscore King 44-12 in the paint and 12-0 in second-chance points.
Overall, Kemp found it to be a better performance than a 62-49 win over Carson-Newman last Thursday.
“I thought we did better job on our transition defense compared to our last game,” Kemp said. “Destiny, you could tell is getting back to form. She was really aggressive taking the ball to the hole and doing a tremendous job for us. She did tonight what we need from her every night we step on the floor.”
Mitchell’s efforts helped offset a 21-point performance by King junior Brooke Johnson.
Johnson, a former Cloudland High School standout, ended with 14 first-half points as King trailed just 34-27 at the half. She continued to keep the Lady Tornado close for the majority of the second half. Her fourth 3-point goal of the game cut the lead to just 52-44 with less than 10 minutes remaining.
“I don’t take any credit for how many points I scored because someone had to get me the ball,” Johnson said. “But, it was one of my biggest home crowds because most of my friends go to ETSU. I just came out and played my hardest. The shots were falling so that was exciting.”
The Lady Bucs, who never were able to hit a 20-point lead, were lifted by Natalie Pickwell’s second-half performance. Held to just two points on 1-of-5 shooting in the first half, ETSU’s senior guard busted loose in the second half to end with 14 points.
“I don’t know of anything specific I did,” Pickwell said. “You just have to keep shooting and eventually it will come on. That’s the thing about being a shooter — you just have to keep firing and it will come.”
Being one of only two seniors, along with Gwen Washington, on this year’s team, Pickwell realized it won’t be the last time she will have to play a bigger role.
“There is definitely more responsibility this season,” Pickwell said. “It’s about keeping my teammates up during the game as well as the performance. It’s my responsibility, but I feel I can take care of that.”
ETSU got an additional lift from freshman Amy Duke who came through with a 12-point effort.
With play to be expected this early in the season, the teams combined for 50 turnovers. The bright side for ETSU was that 32 of those were charged to King with 18 coming off ETSU steals.
Another concern for the Lady Bucs was a 2-for-13 night from 3-point range, just 15.4 percent for the contest.
“We’ve got to do a much better job from the perimeter,” Kemp said. “Otherwise, we’re going to see a lot of zone this season. We have to start knocking down some outside shots.”
With the two exhibition wins under their belts, the Lady Bucs host Tennessee Tech on Friday night to open the regular season.