Kernels reunite, remember team of excellence
SIOUX FALLS-- To win a state championship, many people say a team has to be cohesive and tight knit.
Saturday, the band of brothers was reunited as the 1985 state champion Mitchell Kernel boys basketball team was honored as the 2014 team of excellence at the 2014 South Dakota High School Basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremony at the Ramkota Hotel in Sioux Falls. Former Kernel standout Bart Friedrick was also honored as an individual at the banquet.
“It is a great honor to be inducted,” said Jason DeLange, who played guard for the ’85 squad and is a captain for the National Guard in Colorado Springs, Colo. “I never had any brothers. I had two sisters, so these guys are the ones I lean on to help me through stuff. Sometimes we get together just for fun and sometimes we help each other out. Playing basketball, you make lifelong friends with this game and this was a great opportunity for us to get back together and think about old times.”
After playing for the Kernels, who were 23-0 in the 1985 season, DeLange went on to play basketball at Dakota Wesleyan University.
“We have all shared the love of Mitchell basketball and it was special,” DeLange said. “We were at the beginning of coach (Gary Munsen’s) state championship runs. To us we take great pride in maybe starting that tradition of kids wanting to grow up to be Mitchell basketball players and that is really what it is about.”
Another member of the team who traveled from afar to attend the induction ceremony was Chad Andersen. The former Kernel, who works in pharmaceutical sales traveled from San Antonio, Texas, to fellowship with his teammates. Andersen has been living in San Antonio for 12 years, but said as soon as he heard the team was being inducted, he had to come back home.
“It is great to be back in South Dakota,” Andersen said. “It is great to see everybody. We are more than a team. We are all really great friends and more like a family. Coming back we all dive right back in even though we haven’t seen each other for awhile.”
Anderson went on to play football at the University of South Dakota, but not before helping the Kernels win the ’85 title by scoring 41 points in the state tournament. Friedrick led the legendary Mitchell team at the Class A tournament - a time when there were only two classes - that year with 61 points. After his senior season with the Kernels, Friedrick went on to play basketball at Drake University. The Kernel squad beat Sioux Falls Washington 62-59 in the state championship game.
“The year before, we went 22-1 and won a state championship, so we had very specific goals coming back,” Andersen said. “We wanted to go undefeated and we had great leadership from Bart and our coaches. There were a lot of great moments and it was a fantastic ride.”
Parkston’s Gerhardt Buenning and Woonsocket’s Milton Authier were also inducted.
Area women inducted
Julie (Harmacek) Bridge, Mandy Koupal and Colleen Morgan each played basketball in different decades but each etched their way into history and were inducted into the South Dakota High School Basketball Hall of Fame Saturday.
“It is a great honor,” Koupal said. “Like I said in my speech, I am really speechless. It is really humbling to have a special moment like this, and I am really excited that my family and friends could be here to enjoy this with me.”
Koupal played at Wagner High School, where she graduated in 1999. Koupal helped the Red Raiders claim back-to-back state championships in 1997 and 1998. She was also selected as an all-state selection three times and finished her career at Wagner with 2,065 points. She went on to play basketball in college at the University of South Dakota and is currently an assistant coach for the Colorado State University women’s basketball team.
Moran was a four-year starter for Stickney and averaged a triple-double the final two years of her high school career. Moran was a first-team all-state selection as a senior and played at Dakota State University after graduating in 1979.
Bridge played her basketball in the 1980s for Avon, where she led the Pirates to two state tournament appearances. She averaged 22 points per game as senior and finished her career with 1,621 points, 722 rebounds, 267 steals and 234 assists. She went on to play one year of basketball at Northern State University and is married to longtime Hanson basketball coach Jim Bridge. She is also the mother of former 2003 South Dakota Miss Basketball, Jenny Bridge.
“Basketball has been in my blood since I was born,” Julie said. “My grandparents were big basketball fans and both my uncles were all-state football and basketball players, so we were kind of raised with sports in our blood.”
Koupal, Bridge and Moran were three of five women who were inducted this year. The other two women inducted were Lori (Wohlleber) O’Farrell, of Summit, and Kris (Holwerda) Woerner, of Brookings.