Mitchell teams, fans have their own March MadnessThe Mitchell High School boys’ basketball team was the fourth local team to go to a state tournament finals this month.
By: Claire Meador, The Daily Republic
RAPID CITY — What a run.
The Mitchell High School boys’ basketball team was the fourth local team to go to a state tournament finals this month. The Kernels fell to Sioux Falls O’Gorman in the state AA finals Saturday in Rapid City, but in a two-week span, Mitchell won two state titles and took home two second-place finishes.
Last weekend, both the Mitchell girls’ basketball team and the Marlin boys’ hockey team brought home state titles. The Kernel girls defeated Sioux Falls Washington 56-54 in the girls’ Class AA state championship game on March 10, bringing home their first title since 2003.
The team went 25-1 on the season, its only loss coming from Sioux Falls Lincoln on Jan. 2.
The Marlin boys defeated Brookings 2-0 to claim the title on March 18. Brookings was undefeated in league play during the regular season; the Marlins were 13-4 on the regular season.
The Marlin girls’ hockey team also made it to the state championship game but they fell to the Brookings Rangers 5-2 on March 4. The squad’s regular season record was 16-4.
The Kernel boys’ hoops team, which ended its season at 21-4, fell to Sioux Falls O’Gorman for the second year in a row in the Class AA state championship game 63-48 at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City.
While sports success is not unknown in Mitchell, where titles have been hung from the walls for decades, this spring was an impressive time for teams, coaches and those who cheer them on.
Dr. Robert McWhirter, a sports medicine specialist who has been a close observer of the Mitchell sports scene for 27 years, said it was an amazing season for young performers all across Mitchell.
“I was just saying this morning how wonderful this year has been not only with sports but with music as well. The show choir did really well,” McWhirter said. “The girls’ hockey team had a good year as well as the boys and all the other teams that made it this year.”
He said this is “definitely” one of the most successful years Mitchell High School has had in a very long time, with both the boys’ and girls’ hockey teams as well as the boys’ and girls’ basketball teams making it to the state championship this year.
Fans took notice, McWhirter said.
“Yeah, absolutely a lot of people have been saying that this is one of the best senior classes Mitchell has had in a long time,” he said.
The boys’ basketball team was hoping to send out longtime coach Gary Munsen, who announced his retirement before the beginning of the season, with one last state championship before he retired.
“It’ll be all right,” Munsen said after the game on Saturday. “I just told (the team) it’ll take me a couple days to get over it.”
The Kernels boys’ basketball team’s loss in the title game wrapped the two-week run of title thrills, ended Munsen’s career on the sidelines and concluded a remarkable season for the squad.
During the regular season, the Kernels only lost three games — twice to Pierre, on Dec. 13 and Jan. 31 — and to Brookings on Feb. 9.
Though they didn’t have much depth, the Kernels boasted an impressive roster starting five seniors: Brady Maxwell, Tate Martin, Jade Miller, Tucker Volesky and Matt Henriksen. All five of the starters have either already signed to play college basketball, or are planning to play next year.
Miller and Henriksen have signed with coach Shane Murphy and the Dakota Wesleyan University men’s basketball team. Tate Martin will be playing for the University of Mary in Bismarck, N.D.
Maxwell was waiting until the end of the high school season to make any decisions about playing college ball.
Volesky has applied to Harvard University, which does not give out athletic scholarships. If he is accepted at his father’s alma mater, he plans to walk on the basketball team.
Even though it wasn’t the ending he was hoping for, Munsen said he’s still very proud of how the team did this season.
Off the bench, Brian Maxwell, Zach Hanson, and junior Seth Cavanaugh contributed to the Kernels lineup as well.
“We were 21-4 this season,” Munsen said. “You had to do something right to get that record.”
He said the teams in the state tourney this year were so comparable that any one of them could have won the title.
Volesky said even though the team wasn’t able to send Munsen out with a state title, he’s still proud to have been a part of the Kernel legacy.
“Obviously we wanted to send him out on top as number one,” Volesky said. “He’s still a legendary coach and one of the greatest coaches in South Dakota history. I wish we could have given him one more championship.”