Kernels welcomed home
That's the word used over and over to describe the Mitchell High School girls' basketball team Sunday.
"People were just trying to come up with other ways to say the word awesome," said Dana Price, referring to media coverage of the girls' efforts during the Class AA state girls' basketball tournament over the weekend in Brookings. "You guys are just outstanding young people."
Price, representing the Mitchell Board of Education, joined family, friends, coaches and fans at the MHS auditorium on Sunday afternoon to welcome home the Kernels, who took second place Saturday night at Frost Arena.
Despite losing to Sioux Falls Washington 58-51 in the title game, people had only positive remarks for the Kernels, lauding the girls' efforts on the court, as well as their growth and development as people and as players.
"We fell a little bit short of the ultimate goal, but it was still a great season," said Geoff Gross, Mitchell School District's activities director. "Thank you, ladies. It was truly a pleasure to watch you throughout the whole season, but especially these last few days."
Sometimes serious, sometimes poignant, the afternoon provided an opportunity for coaches and players to offer thanks and share memories of the season and each other. Several players took the opportunity to poke light-hearted fun at each other, sharing inside jokes or even re-enacting funny moments from the locker room.
The season ended Saturday, but the memories will last a lifetime, noted assistant coach Christina Siemsen, a more important benchmark than the final win-loss tally. Though, Mitchell ended the season an impressive 23-2.
"It's all about the memories these girls have," she said. "These are some incredible girls."
The girls were often praised for their attitudes on the court throughout the season, as several people noted they behaved "like ladies" and are positive role models.
"I've never seen such leadership on and off the court," said assistant coach Kayla Braffet.
Ending the stream of heartfelt remarks was head coach Wes Morgan, who paid special tribute to his five seniors, Emma Schmidt, Torrie Michels, Shelly Iburg, Cassidy Musick and Macy Miller. He praised Schmidt's "quiet leadership" to Michels' oft-displayed toughness to Miller smashing multiple records and ending the season with 768 points, saying each girl displayed character and growth throughout the season. He also noted that, even though no one wants to lose, losing to a team of Sioux Falls Washington's caliber is nothing to be ashamed of.
"We played the best three teams in the tournament, and we got two of them," he said. "I couldn't be more proud of these girls."
And despite losing five strong players, Morgan cautioned against counting out a return appearance to the title game next year.
"They wrote us off last year," he said, noting five players graduated from last year's team, as well. "We'll see what happens, but I like our chances."