Girls BB tourney caps run of success for core groupKernels to graduate 4 starting players this year.
By: Brooke Cersosimo, The Daily Republic
RAPID CITY — After the past three years, the Mitchell Kernels have made an impression in the state girls’ basketball community.
The Kernels have played their way to a seventh-place finish and two state championship appearances after missing the Class AA state tournament in 2010.
The recent success of the girls’ basketball team is something head coach Wes Morgan, who’s been at the helm of the program since the 2008-2009 season, can hold his head high about.
“I’m proud of it. I’m proud of the kids for buying into what we’re telling them,” he said. “The way you get success is putting the time in, and when you do that you start reaping in the benefits.”
In the last three seasons, Mitchell has put up a record of 61-15, won two District 3AA titles, claimed the Eastern South Dakota Conference title in 2012, shared that title with Aberdeen Central this season and was crowned state champion in 2012.
Mitchell returned to the state tournament in 2011 after a six- year drought, and finished in seventh that season, with a final record of 15-10.
The following year, the Kernels showed their dominance by recording just one loss and winning the state championship title, beating Sioux Falls Washington 56-54 to claim the prized Class AA girls’ basketball crown.
This season, Mitchell thrived off the previous year’s success, shutting opponents down by an average of 29.5 points per game in its 22 wins. The Kernels finished this season with a loss to Sioux Falls Lincoln in the championship game Saturday in Rapid City.
Morgan said the group of players, who helped rebuild Mitchell’s girls’ basketball program, is a rarity.
“We grew this class up and we wanted to get this class better and turn them into a team that can handle getting to a state tournament and being successful at it,” said Morgan, who had six seniors on this year’s team.
“It was a nice team that came through and there will be teams to come. Hopefully, we got something started with this group and hopefully we can continue to improve on it and get better as we go.”
Morgan said the players returning to next year’s squad had good role models in the seniors — Berkley Rietveld, Megan Farnham, Courtney Moore, Kerri Young, Kristin Sabers and Ashley Larson — and will have to work hard to get back to the title game.
“The main thing is we have to get back in the gym and prepare for next year,” he said. “It starts in the off-season and getting in shape. I don’t know if we can get the kids to put this much time in. I mean, this is a special group that loved basketball and that’s what you have to do to make it to the state tournament finals.”
The Kernels graduate four of their five starters in May, and junior Macy Miller said Saturday’s loss will drive the returning players to work harder.
“We have high hopes for next year,” she said. “We know what it feels like to win and to lose in the championship, and this is going to fuel us a lot.”