NORMAL — Flanagan-Cornell High School senior Jadyn Mitchell had her game plan in place for Saturday's Country Financial Queen of the Hill showdown at Redbird Arena.
After winning the state Class 1A title on the same floor a week earlier, Mitchell opted to keep it simple.
"I decided to stay confident, not worry about it too much, just come in here and shoot," she said.
Her week of preparation, combined with an eagle-eye from long range and a gift for drilling buckets from beyond the 3-point arc, earned Mitchell a tie for second among Saturday's field of competitors comprised of champions from the state's four classes.
She also earned $500 for the Flanagan-Cornell academic fund for making her "money ball" shot from the top of the key.
"I'm just happy I could make it this far," Mitchell said. "Winning state (in Class 1A) was a great feeling and coming here, just being a part of it, was a pretty great opportunity."
Mitchell capitalized on her opportunity as the first contestant by canning her first three attempts from the right perimeter. She then made two shots from the top of the key and two from the left perimeter before sinking the money ball.
It was then a matter of sitting and watching to see if her total would hold up.
When Pekin sophomore Taylor Goss, the Class 4A champ, surpassed the total by one, Mitchell settled for a tie for second with Caitlin Bowersock, the Class 2A champion from Red Hill.
"It was kind of upsetting, I guess, but I'm happy for (Goss)," Mitchell said. "We were all pretty excited for being here."
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A four-year starter at Flanagan-Cornell, Mitchell has spent countless hours in the gym developing her shot, which she says comes somewhat naturally.
"You have to work at it for a little bit, but it usually just comes pretty easy," she said. "It's just spending extra hours in the gym, keep practicing. When I was little I used to shoot outside, but my principal gave me a key to our gym and I just go in there whenever I want."
Mitchell said she got the key as a freshman. The end result was over 1,000 points in her high school career, including a Heart of Illinois Conference record 51 in a McLean County/HOIC tournament game in January.
"It was just unreal," she said of establishing the tournament record. "I didn't even think I had that many points. I just kept shooting when I was open and they just kept going in."
Mitchell is a member of the National Honor Society and said she enjoys giving back to the community by participating in area projects. She also relished the chance to earn some cash for her school with the money ball.
"It was pretty cool," she said. "We were pretty nervous about it. $500 was on the line there. Whatever we can give back is really great."
Goss, the newly crowned "Queen of the Hill," made 12 shots in capturing the 4A title Friday night and believed the quick turnaround was beneficial.
"I think it helped," she said. "You just try to go into it with the same shot and keep the rhythm."
She also had the crowd behind her Saturday, with a large contingent from neighboring Morton there to watch the Potters play for the Class 3A state title pulling for her.
"That was really nice," Goss said. "I wasn't really expecting it so when they started cheering a little bit I was like, 'Okay, keep shooting, keep shooting.'"