It took just eight minutes for Mitchell to grab control of the 4A Colorado Springs Metro League.

The Marauders (7-9, 4-1 4A CSML) used a big third quarter to overtake Mesa Ridge (9-8, 5-1) and eventually pull away for a 57-46 home win in a clash of the conference's two best teams.

After a tightly contested first half, Mitchell led 26-25. The halftime adjustments the Marauders made worked to perfection, as they outscored Mesa Ridge 17-5 in the third.

"We knew that they were undefeated in the conference and it was very important that we play as a team and win this game at home," said Mitchell senior Marcus Phillips, who had 15 points and six rebounds. "Our plan on defense was to not let their posts catch the ball in the paint, and we did a good job."

It was the biggest win in quite a while for the Mitchell program, and the Marauders now control their own destiny in the conference. They trail Mesa Ridge by a half game.

Mitchell first-year coach Jarris Krapcha understood how big of a game it was - win or lose. It wasn't just a win for conference standings, but it also made a statement to the Grizzlies.

"I told the guys that if we got this one, the league would be ours to lose," Krapcha said. "It's been a long process with this team, and we are so much better than we were in December, and these guys have worked very hard. To see them rewarded with this win tonight was pretty cool."

Mitchell used a balanced scoring attack, led by three players in double figures. In addition to Phillips, shooting guard David Perea scored 15 points and added four steals, while point guard Quincy Bryant had 13 points, seven assists and only two turnovers.

As well as the third quarter went for Mitchell, it was equally disastrous for Mesa Ridge. The Grizzlies battled back from an early first-half deficit to cut the lead to one at the break, and looked poised to make a run to take the lead. But that wasn't what happened.

"We didn't execute in the third quarter and we had a lot of empty possessions," Mesa Ridge coach Paul Mileto said. "Mitchell had a good game plan to double and triple our posts, and we couldn't find the right guy. It's back to the drawing board I guess."

Another cause for concern for Mesa Ridge was the free-throw line, where it went 11 for 22, which turned out to be the final margin.

The Grizzlies will have a chance for redemption when Mitchell comes to their home gym for the regular season finale Feb. 20, which could decide the conference title.

"We need more talking and intensity on defense, and we need better shots on offense," Mesa Ridge senior J.J. Cates said. "This loss will refocus us and we have a lot of seniors on this team, so we'll be ready when we see them again.

Cates led the Grizzlies with 14 points and Matt Atkins contributed 10 as the only other Mesa Ridge player in double figures.