Kernels looking to place higher than second this year at stateTaking second place at the last year’s boys’ state basketball tournament left a bitter taste in the mouths of the returning Kernel basketball players.
By: Claire Meador, The Daily Republic
Taking second place at the last year’s boys’ state basketball tournament left a bitter taste in the mouths of the returning Kernel basketball players.
Mitchell went 2-1 in the state tournament last season, defeating Sturgis 44-43 in the first round and beating Sioux Falls Washington 52-49 in the second round. Mitchell lost Sioux Falls O’Gorman 56-49 in the title game.
As if that wasn’t enough incentive to bring home a title, it’s also Mitchell head coach Gary Munsen’s last year coaching basketball.
“It’s an honor, really,” senior forward Brady Maxwell said of being a part of Munsen’s last state tournament run. “He’s had so many great teams and it’s an honor that maybe we get to be the last one and the one that people remember for the long run.”
This will be the ninth year in a row that Munsen has led his team to a state championship appearance and Maxwell hopes that this year’s team will help Munsen go out on a high note.
“I mean, you kind of remember the last things that you do,” Maxwell said. “People will remember this last year, and hopefully they’ll remember the good things.”
The Kernels are seeded second going into this year’s Class AA state tournament and have a 19-3 record. O’Gorman is the top seed.
For the Kernels’ first game, they will face off against seventh-seeded Sioux Falls Roosevelt at 6 p.m. MDT. Thursday in Rapid City at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.
Senior forward Jade Miller said he feels pressure after taking second place last year and knows there are a lot of strong teams going into the state tournament.
“I think they’ll probably just come out and play their best game against us,” Miller said. “For some reason, when it comes to playing the Kernels, everybody always plays their best game.”
Maxwell agreed, saying that taking second place last year made him want to work even harder going into this season.
“Last year we were kind of content with getting second place,” Maxwell said. “This year getting second place will be just like getting seventh place … if we get second place, we might as well not even go.”
Even though Mitchell hasn’t played Sioux Falls Roosevelt this season, both Maxwell and Miller said the Kernels have been watching film and trying to get familiar with the Rough Riders’ offense.
“It’s the state tournament, and I think everyone’s probably going to play hard no matter what,” Maxwell said. “I don’t think there’s any extra motivation needed for the state tournament. I mean, we’ve had a target all year. I think we’ve gotten a lot of good games out of everybody, and I think people will continue to play hard against us.”