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Mitchell senior Torrie Michels guards Pierre senior Kaitlyn Severyn during the Class AA district championship game March 6 at the Corn Palace in Mitchell. (Sean Ryan/Republic)

Torrie Michels showing rodeo toughness for Kernel defense

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Dealing with Mitchell’s offense is more than enough for most Class AA girls’ basketball teams, but the Kernel strength on the defensive end this season has made things even tougher for the opposition.

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Senior guard Torrie Michels, who also competes in rodeo, makes sure the pressure starts the moment the other team gets the ball.

The 5-foot-4 guard has embraced her defensive role with the club. Her work mirroring the other team’s point guard up the court each time has often resulted in bad passes and turnovers.

“It is my job,” Michels said. “I don’t really score a lot so defense is my game. I get fired up when I make the other team turnover the ball and we can score points off it.”

Mitchell coach Wes Morgan preaches a turning-defense-into-offense mentality with his players, who have forced 19 turnovers per game, while committing just 13.

Michels will zig-zag, backpedaling up the court staying in front of the other team’s ball handler the whole way. This causes the opposing player to have to change direction numerous times each time, wasting precious seconds off the shot clock and opening up opportunities for Michels and her teammates to capitalize on mistakes.

“I have a competition with myself,” Michels explained. “If I turn a girl around three times, I will try to make her do it four times the next trip.”

Morgan said senior Emma Schmidt adds a similar style of play as Michels does, while the coaches are training sophomore Erin Farnham to do the same.

Despite being the smallest player on the court most of the time, Michels has no fear of getting inside for rebounds.

“I like to sneak in there because they don’t expect a short person like me to get those rebounds,” Michels said.

Michels pulled down a game-high 11 rebounds in a win over Rapid City Central in the team’s third game of the season. She is averaging 3.4 rebounds per game.

When she is not out-hustling opposing players on the basketball court, Michels is competing in rodeo, which she says has made her tougher.

“Rodeo makes me mentally tougher,” Michels said. “I know how to take a hit and get right back up. That’s just my personality.”

Mitchell averages more than 11 steals per game as a team, with senior guard Macy Miller picking up five takeaways each time out. Michels and Taylor Volesky each average just under two per game.

The Kernels are outscoring their opponents by 21 points per game, and by 13.5 points in the first half, leading to early leads.

No. 2 seed Mitchell opens the Class AA state tournament against No. 7 Sioux Falls Roosevelt at 6 p.m. today at Frost Arena in Brookings.

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