Kernels head to Class AA championship for 3rd straight year
BROOKINGS — The Mitchell girls’ basketball team avenged its lone loss of the season, advancing to the state title game with a win Friday in Brookings.
The No. 2 seed Kernels (23-1) surged past No. 3 seed Sioux Falls O’Gorman (17-7) in the fourth quarter to win 61-48 in the semifinals of the Class AA state tournament at Frost Arena.
The Kernels play No. 1 Sioux Falls Washington in the title game at 8 p.m. today. Mitchell has beaten the Warriors the last two years in the Class AA tournament, including a two-point win in 2012 for the championship.
For the second straight night, Kernel senior guard Macy Miller took over in the fourth quarter. She scored 16 of her tournament-high 40 points in the final eight minutes.
“She wanted this one to get back the one that we lost at O’Gorman (Jan. 18),” Mitchell coach Wes Morgan said.
The first three quarters were a back-and-forth affair, with eight ties and 12 lead changes, as the Knights held a one-point lead going into the final quarter.
Miller was relentless down the stretch, hitting a running jumper to give the Kernels the lead for good with over 7 minutes left to kick off a 9-0 Kernel run. On the next Knight possession, Miller stole the ball, sprinted the length of the court, got fouled and laid the ball in. This put the Kernels up four, prompting a fist pump and scream of celebration from the often soft-spoken star.
The Kernel defense held the Knights to 16 points in the second half and six in the fourth quarter. The team combined for 10 steals and forced 15 O’Gorman turnovers.
Mitchell senior center Shelly Iburg left the court with six minutes to play after taking an elbow to the face. She returned quickly and showed her toughness, hitting the floor to cause a crucial jump ball that led to more Mitchell points and secured a strong rebound late to help seal the game.
“We locked down defensively in the fourth quarter,” Iburg said. “I wanted to make sure we finished strong. After getting hurt, I wanted to come back and prove myself.”
Junior forward Taylor Volesky, who was limited with an ankle injury in Mitchell’s loss to O’Gorman earlier this season, helped keep the Kernels even with the Knights in the first half. She hit a 3-pointer to tie the game at 29 in the second quarter, as O’Gorman looked to be building momentum.
“The biggest difference in the two games was Taylor playing well and our defense down the stretch,” Morgan said about his team’s win over the only squad to best Mitchell this season.
Volesky finished with 17 points, seven rebounds and three assists. Volesky combined with Miller to take 37 of Mitchell’s 46 shots.
Miller added 12 rebounds for the double-double, four assists, two blocks and six steals, while Iburg grabbed seven rebounds. Miller was 14-of-14 from the line.
The Kernels were 21-of-46 from the field for 45 percent, compared to 31 percent against the Knights earlier this season. Mitchell was also 18-of-22 from the line.
O’Gorman was led by Dalee Stene and Peyton Bjorkman with 12 points apiece. Katie Messler added six rebounds for the Knights, who shot 17-of-45 from the field and 12-of-19 from the free-throw line.
Mitchell outrebounded O’Gorman 33-25 and showed strength on the inside. According to Miller, the team will have to continue that trend to leave Brookings with a title.
“They have some good players in the post that we will have to play strong against,” Miller said about the matchup with Washington, as the Kernels go for a sixth Class AA girls’ state title today.
MITCHELL 61, SF O’GORMAN 48
SF O’GORMAN (17-8): Stene 6-13 0-0 12, Howes 1-5 2-4 4, Bjorkman 4-8 4-9 12, Townsend 1-6 2-2 5, Leafstedt 1-2 0-0 2, Cartwright 3-6 0-0 7, Messler 0-1 4-4 4, Wilson 0-1 0-0 0, Mieras 1-3 0-0 2. Totals: 17-45 12-19 48.
MITCHELL (23-1): Michels 0-2 1-2 1, Volesky 7-18 2-3 17, Miller 13-19 14-14 40, Schmidt 0-3 1-3 1, Iburg 1-4 0-0 2. Totals: 21-46 18-22 61.
SFO 19 32 42 48
M 18 31 41 61
3-pointers: SFO 12-17 (Stene 0-4, Bjorkman 0-3, Townsend 1-6, Cartwright 1-4), Mitchell 1-7 (Michels 0-2, Volesky 1-3, Schmidt 0-2). Rebounds: SFO 25 (Messler 8), Mitchell 33 (Miller 17). Assists: SFO 6 (Mieras 2, Stebe 2), Mitchell 7 (Miller 4). Total fouls: SFO 14, Mitchell 16.