VIDEO: More Than Just a Game
Wilmington High School boys basketball manager Kevin Mitchell stole the spotlight during a lopsided Wildcat win over Tewksbury on Friday.
It was just one point in a 16-point blowout victory for the Wilmington High School boys basketball team. For Kevin Mitchell, however, it was much more meaningful.
Mitchell served as the team's manager for all four years of his high school tenure, but he never once donned the Wildcat blue and white.
Friday night, however, he was given the opportunity to suit up for Wilmington on Senior Night as he was honored during pregame ceremonies along with seven of his classmates.
For the majority of the game against Tewksbury, he watched from the bench as the Wildcats built a double-digit lead.
Beginning about halfway through the final stanza, the home crowd started a chant of "Put in Mitchell" that continued in the ensuing minutes. The chants only got louder as Mitchell remained on the bench until the one-minute mark of the fourth quarter.
That's when the senior got the call he'd been waiting for. Following a time out, Mitchell checked into the game and jogged onto the court to a standing ovation.
"He's going to remember that the rest of his life," said Wilmington head coach Joseph Maiella. "He's been here every single day for four years at practice, and he would die to get into a game. In practice he'll go out and try to do fast break drills with us, and he's been a manager since day one."
Mitchell launched several long-distance attempts as teammates grabbed rebounds and fed the ball right back to him. None of those attempts connected as the crowd held its breath with each shot, but with eight seconds remaining, Tewksbury fouled the fan favorite.
No. 4 toed the line, exhaled and spun the ball in his fingertips. Then three dribbles, one more spin and a final bounce before he lofted the first free throw. With every fan in attendance on their feet, the ball clanged off the left side of the rim and out.
Mitchell wasn't fazed. He stepped to the stripe again, went through the same routine and floated the ball towards the rim again. The ball touched nothing but net and sent the building into a raucous ovation.
"We've had some games over the last few years that regardless of who's won or lost, our kids have grown and learned a lot from," said Tewksbury head coach Jim Sullivan, Jr. "That was a special moment for a special kid at the end of the game and I was really happy our guys reacted the way they did and they wanted the best for that kid too."
Following the make, Mitchell trotted back up the court and after the final seconds ticked off the clock, he was congratulated by both teammates and opponents alike. Then, in the locker room he was presented with a special souvenir.
"He deserves tonight and the kids just gave him the game ball. He's a great kid," said Maiella. "That's what Wilmington is all about. It was tremendous to see all the kids chanting his name and this place just erupted for him. That's what high school sports are all about."