Mitchell wins Class AA state girls' basketball titleBROOKINGS — A huddle of Mitchell players formed on one end of the court before Saturday night’s Class AA girls’ state basketball championship. Led by mainly juniors and sophomores, the Kernels grouped together in their final time playing this season to have a meeting about the biggest game of their lives.
By: Luke Hagen, The Daily Republic
BROOKINGS — A huddle of Mitchell players formed on one end of the court before Saturday night’s Class AA girls’ state basketball championship.
Led by mainly juniors and sophomores, the Kernels grouped together in their final time playing this season to have a meeting about the biggest game of their lives.
“We said we wanted to play our hearts out,” said the team’s only senior, Dana Misiaszek.
On the same end of the court after 32 minutes peeled off the game clock, Sioux Falls Washington missed a shot at the buzzer to lift the Kernels to a 56-54 win and a state championship at Frost Arena.
After the shot fell short, Mitchell players circled at the center of the arena in celebration. The Kernels finished the season 24-1.
“I was looking for someone to hug,” Mitchell coach Wes Morgan said, “and my two assistants were jumping on top of me.”
The state championship didn’t come without a push from Sioux Falls Washington.
Mitchell had leads of 12 points in the third quarter and nine points in the fourth quarter, but the game still came down to the final minute. Washington pulled within 52-51 with 1:21 to play, but Mitchell’s Kristin Sabers knocked down a 3-pointer from the corner and Macy Miller hit one of two free throws that set up the Kernels’ final two-point advantage.
When Sioux Falls Washington’s Kelsey Knecht missed a 15-foot jumper at the final buzzer, the Mitchell girls’ basketball team won its first state championship since 2003. It’s the school’s fifth state girls’ basketball title.
“I think my heart dropped when that shot went up,” said Mitchell’s Kerri Young, who finished with eight points and 10 rebounds and was one of three Mitchell players on the all-tournament team.
Miller finished with a game-high 20 points and Megan Farnham had nine points and seven rebounds. They both were named to the all-tournament team.
“This was definitely a game of momentum,” Farnham said.
Farnham hit a 3-pointer in the first quarter that helped the Kernels rally from an early five-point deficit. With the shot clock dwindling, the 5-foot-8 junior guard threw up a deep 3-pointer that swished the net and pulled Mitchell within 12-11. Mitchell went on a 7-2 run at the end of the first quarter to pull ahead 18-14.
Farnham had five straight points early in the second quarter that padded the lead to seven. The Kernels led by five at halftime, but had three of its starters — Farnham, Sabers and Miller — holding two fouls.
Miller netted a three-point play to open the second half, and she knocked down two free throws less than two minutes later to give the Kernels a 39-28 advantage.
But Washington continued to find ways to score.
The Warriors went on a 10-2 run that spanned about four minutes, squeezing Mitchell’s lead to 41-40 with 40 seconds to go in the third quarter.
“I expected them to keep coming at us,” Morgan said.
Farnham picked up her fourth foul with 1:37 left in the third, but she never got a fifth. She was pulled after her fourth foul and returned with 6:27 to go in the game with the Kernels leading by five.
Sabers scored on a nice pass from Misiaszek with 5:52 left to give Mitchell a 49-40 lead, but Washington put together one final scoring blast.
The Warriors outscored the Kernels 11-3 to pull within 52-51 before Sabers’ final 3-pointer. They got buckets of Kernel turnovers, but Morgan called a timeout to draw up a play called “gold” after Washington failed to score when it trailed by one point.
The gold play finished golden for the Kernels as Sabers knocked down the shot, and the arena erupted.
“It was either for me, or Kerri could drive to the hoop,” said Sabers, who finished with six points and nine rebounds. “I could hit it again, but it’s a difficult shot to take, and my balance is never good on that shot. But it went in.”
Young missed the front end of a bonus on the Kernels’ next possession, and Washington responded with a 3-pointer to pull within one point again at 55-54. Then, Miller knocked down one last free throw, and the Kernels were champions seconds later.
“When their shot didn’t go in, I just looked over at Kerri and started jumping up and down, and I knew we had won,” Sabers said.
Mitchell shot 37 percent from the field in the game and was 13-of-19 from the free-throw line. Washington hit 39 percent from the field but was 11-of-19 from the free-throw line.
“This was our main goal throughout the year, and we accomplished it,” Young said.