Kernels refocusing after lossesTwo losses are not ruining a season, Mitchell girls’ basketball coach Wes Morgan said Monday.
By: Luke Hagen, The Daily Republic
Two losses are not ruining a season, Mitchell girls’ basketball coach Wes Morgan said Monday.
“It’s going to refocus us,” said Morgan, whose team is 5-2 and hosts Brandon Valley at 7:30 p.m. today at the Corn Palace. “We’re going to get to work. That’s for sure.”
In two days, the defending Class AA state champion Kernels lost two games. Both on the road, they fell to Sioux Falls Washington Friday and lost to Aberdeen Central Saturday.
Morgan said it was a combination of several things why his previously unbeaten team suffered defeat twice in one weekend.
After not playing a game since Dec. 18, the then No. 1-ranked Kernels took the court Friday and never got comfortable offensively against the No. 2 Warriors. It was a battle of two undefeated teams and a rematch of last year’s Class AA state championship game.
The 52-42 loss in which Mitchell uncharacteristically shot 15 threes ended the school’s winning streak at 24, dating back to last year’s sixth game of the regular season.
The next night, the Kernels traveled to Aberdeen, ranked third, for a matchup against another undefeated team, losing again by 10 points.
Mitchell missed 12 layups against the Eagles, and in both games combined the Kernels were 37-of-102 from the field for 36 percent. Through the first five games of the year, they were 49 percent from the floor.
Morgan also mentioned instances in both games where his team struggled defensively and was unable to stop the opposition’s top threats.
“It was a complete shock,” Mitchell senior forward Kristin Sabers said. “Two losses are not what we expected, but we have to break everything down and really work on our defense.”
Monday afternoon, the Kernels dropped 1 in the state’s sportswriters association poll from No. to No. 3, behind Washington and Aberdeen. They’re now third in the Eastern South Dakota Conference and District 3AA standings behind Aberdeen and Pierre, ranked fifth.
Still, there is plenty of season to be played, Morgan said. The Kernels, who didn’t suffer a conference loss last season, match up against Aberdeen again once and play Pierre twice before the postseason kicks off.
“Our goal is to get back to playing well,” he said. “My goal is to get this team to play at the capabilities that we have. I’m not going forward futher than tomorrow. I’m going to try and get these kids back on track, and we will. Everything that happened the last two games is fixable, and that’s a positive.”
Two ESD girls’ basketball coaches interviewed for this story said they were somewhat surprised to see Mitchell lose games on back-to-back nights.
Brandon Valley coach Mark Stadem and Watertown coach Pat McClemans echoed nearly the same thought, saying it would be tough for any team to have to play a highly emotional game against Sioux Falls Washington on the road, and then have to play Aberdeen on the road less than 24 hours later.
“This is January, though,” said Stadem, whose 2010-11 team won the state championship after going 12-8 in the regular season. “There is a lot of basketball left to be played.”
McClemans said Washington’s and Aberdeen’s big, athletic players were the reason they were able to compete with Mitchell, something other teams failed to do this year. He doesn’t think the losses will hurt the Kernels in the long run, though.
“I’m sure for Wes, this will be a pretty easy week in practice because he will have his players’ attention,” McClemans said. “(Losing) probably wasn’t the worst thing to happen to Mitchell. … There are some kids on that team who take those losses personally.”