Kernel girls wrap up successful seasonBefore the Kernels won the Class AA state title over the weekend, Joe Shepardson was never a part of a state tournament.
By: Luke Hagen, The Daily Republic
Before the Kernels won the Class AA state title over the weekend, Joe Shepardson was never a part of a state tournament.
The first-year assistant coach for the Mitchell girls’ basketball team was glowing after the Kernels defeated Sioux Falls Washington 56-54 Saturday at Frost Arena in Brookings to help the school win its first state title since 2003.
“I can’t imagine not being a part of this,” he said at Sunday’s welcome-home celebration at the Corn Palace.
Shepardson graduated in 2001 from Sturgis, where he played on the school team but never qualified for the state tournament. He also played basketball for Dakota Wesleyan and coached at Sanborn Central for two years.
“Not to sound cheesy, but this is the best basketball experience I’ve ever had,” said Shepardson, who shared the bench with another first-year assistant, Jesse Kroupa.
Mitchell finished its season on a 19-game winning streak with its two-point state championship game victory over Sioux Falls Washington Saturday. The title was the first for head coach Wes Morgan, and it was the fifth girls’ state title in school history.
Mitchell’s lone loss this year was to Sioux Falls Lincoln, a 71-63 game on Jan. 2 in Sioux Falls. Morgan said he thinks the loss was beneficial for the team in the long run.
“If we didn’t lose there, maybe we lost the last game of the year,” Morgan said.
The Kernels went unbeaten on their home court and in the Eastern South Dakota Conference, earning their first league title since the 2003-04 season. They won the District 3AA crown, knocking off Aberdeen Central for the third time during the year.
After all the success Mitchell had this season, it’s time to start thinking about repeating in 2013.
“We’ll give it a shot,” Shepardson said. “Are we the favorites? Everyone will put us as the favorites, but we’re just going to keep doing what we’ve been doing.”
Next season, the Kernels return four of five starters and top three scoring threats en route to a title defense.
Juniors Kerri Young and Kristin Sabers each started all 25 of Mitchell’s game this year, and sophomore Macy Miller started 21 games. Young, a South Dakota State recruit, led the team in scoring and rebounding at 18.9 points and 6.6 rebounds per game, Miller averaged 15 points and 4.4 rebounds and Sabers averaged 8.1 points and 4.9 rebounds.
Megan Farnham, who averaged 4.8 points, 2 assists and 3.6 rebounds, will also return next year for her senior season.
“We’ve got a nice returning group,” Morgan said. “Kerri and Macy want to keep getting better to get ready to play in college, and the rest of the girls want to jump on the bandwagon and get better, too.”
On Monday, it was announced that Miller and Young were named first-team all-ESD Conference, while Sabers and Dana Misiaszek, the team’s lone senior this year, were honorable mention all-conference
Misiaszek averaged 7.2 points and 4.7 rebounds in 25 starts this season. She’s the only starter who won’t be back for next year’s repeat run.
“Will Dana be missed? Yeah,” Morgan said. “But we’ll have to adapt.”
The Kernels have the pieces for another title run next year, but they also have a chance at going undefeated throughout the season.
In the history of the Mitchell girls’ basketball program, there have been two unbeaten seasons. The Kernels went undefeated in 1992 and 1994. Mitchell won 45 straight games during a span of two seasons from 1992 to 1993 under current boys’ coach Gary Munsen.
The Kernels made two straight championship games those years, winning the title with a 23-0 record in 1992, and losing in the title game in 1993 with a 22-1 record. Munsen also led the school to its first state girls’ title in 1990, and Munsen led the Kernel girls to another title in 1994, going 23-0.
If the Kernel girls win all 25 of their games next season, including a second straight state title, their winning streak will be pushed to 44, one shy of the mark set in the early 1990s with Munsen at the helm.