JACKSON TWP. The only thing more difficult than opposing defenses trying to stop Taylor Mikesell at this point is finding superlatives to describe her latest record-breaking performance.
The Jackson senior guard has broken more records in her career than a raging bull in a music store, but it’s her recent outing against Austintown Fitch that broke school, county and state records all in one fell swoop.
Where to start?
There’s the 60 points, a single-game school record. Oh, and the 14 of 17 made 3-pointers, a state record for makes and an 82.3-percent make rate that would be impressive on one-third that number of attempts. If all of that isn’t enough, top it off with the performance pushing Mikesell into first on the Stark County career scoring list.
"It’s right up at the top. At this point, trying to rank her performances is like trying to rank favorite child," Jackson head coach Anthony Butch said. "This 60-point performance is the best shooting display I’ve ever seen. The 14 3-pointers in 17 attempts is something I’m confident we’ll never see again. Words can’t describe that … there’s not too many people at any level who can make 14 of 17 threes and that’s against a good team … Fitch is a 14-win team."
Butch at times pauses, trying to find the right words, but he’s seen enough Mikesell feats that he’s in need of a thesaurus or a good Google search.
The Fitch performance was so incredible that one aspect of it escaped even Mikesell’s coaches until asked about it days later. In the 82-58 win, the 5-foot-9 University of Maryland recruit outscored the 14-8 Falcons - by herself.
"I hadn’t even thought of that," Butch said with a laugh. "We continue to see things we’ve never seen before, so it’s hard to put into words what it’s like."
For Mikesell, all of the individual feats are nice, but at this point, her immediate basketball future is secure with her signing ceremony with Maryland in the books. Putting up more record-breaking nights may raise her profile, but for now, there isn’t as much to be gained from setting new scoring or shooting marks.
Her focus is taking an 18-4 team - one of Jackson’s best seasons in program history - deep into the postseason. While the Polar Bears came up one win against Federal League champion Canton McKinley from a share of the league title and breaking a 40-year league championship drought in the process, Jackson did earn the top seed in the Canton Division I district bracket.
Had Jackson won its second game against McKinley, it would have swept the season series against the Bulldogs and the two teams would have finished with identical 10-2 league records, but that possibility is in the rearview and it’s now full-speed ahead into the postseason.
"It was definitely fun and everything I shot was going in, but I’ll still take the Hoover win and the McKinley win over that," Mikesell said."We have to keep building our momentum and playing well because we’re likely to see a lot of Federal League teams in our bracket."
The only way a third McKinley matchup would happen is if both teams reach the state semifinals, which will be tough to do, but not impossible because the two teams feature two of the top contenders for Ohio’s Miss Basketball award. Given Mikesell’s dominance, it’s hard not to wonder how she stacks up not just against local or state rivals, but against anyone in uniform in the country playing high school basketball right now.
It’s always tough to compare boys and girls players because of strength and size, but in at least one area, Butch believes there isn’t a better player in Ohio.
"Male or female across the state of Ohio, I’m confident Taylor is the best shooter there is," Butch said. "Our boys, coaches and other players see her tirelessly in the gym. She gets here at 10:15 a.m. for a 2 p.m. game to get up hundreds of extra shots."
Butch said that Mikesell’s shooting "has always been there," even as a freshman when she hit a big 3-pointer in a district championship win over GlenOak. Her strength and overall offense has grown around that shooting at that total package has carried her to the top of the county scoring list, a feat that resonates with her amongst all her accomplishments.
"That means a lot, (former McKinley standout) Ameryst Alston had the record and she had so much success at Ohio State and professionally, so that’s really cool," Mikesell said.
One game later, Mikesell added 32 points - yes, even stars have an "off" night to earn one more feat, passing former Jackson boys basketball standout Jami Bosley for the all-time county scoring mark regardless of gender. Bosley, who the school invited to a special ceremony to honor Mikesell prior to the Fitch game, noted that he "hopes Mikesell buries it," when asked about his scoring record.
Given the likelihood that Jackson will have several postseason games ahead of it, that’s a distinct possibility.
Her 3-pointer in the final five minutes of the Mentor win gave her the record, which stood at 2,081 at the end of the game, four better than Bosley. At this point, she’s running out of records to break and there may be only one way left to top herself: bringing home the first state championship in Jackson history for a varsity girls team.
It would be a massive feat and the perfect walk-off shot for a girl whose long-term basketball goal is much bigger and rooted in her experience playing two summers ago for USA Basketball.
"I would definitely say being an Olympian. After playing for Team USA two years ago, I would do anything to get the chance to play with 'USA' across my chest again," Mikesell said.
Reach Andy at 330-580-8936
On Twitter: @aharrisBURB