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MHS goes cold late in loss to Arrows

Luke Hagen/Republic Mitchell's Caitlin Way fights for an offensive rebound in the first half of Monday's game against Watertown at the Corn Palace.

The Mitchell girls' basketball team picked up a moral victory Tuesday night, as it stuck with No. 4-ranked Watertown until the final minutes of the fourth quarter.

But Kernels head coach Wes Morgan said moral victories only go so far.

The seven seniors on the Kernels roster played their final game for Mitchell in the Corn Palace on senior night, losing 56-44 to Watertown.

"Moral victories are moral victories, but this team really needs a win," Morgan said. "It's not that they deserve a win, it's that they need a win."

Only three days after the Kernels lost to Aberdeen Central 46-42 after holding the lead most of the game, Mitchell got within seven points of the Arrows late in the fourth quarter, only to find its offense stagnant for the final three minutes.

Watertown didn't do Mitchell any favors offensively late, either. Tara Heiser, who has verbally committed to play basketball with South Dakota State University next year, knocked down two clutch buckets to help her team seal the win.

"You'd like to think that's maturity of a team," Watertown's head coach Pat McClemans said of his team's clutch offense. "When you have six seniors who have been through some games like this -- where teams make a run and you have to have an answer -- each time we needed a basket we seemed to get it."

Heiser had a game-high 17 points and also hauled in 10 rebounds. She had 13 of her 17 points after halftime, which was when the Arrows offense sparked.

Holding a four-point halftime lead, Watertown scored on its first four possessions after the break and held Mitchell to only two field goals in the third quarter, pulling out to a 16-point lead.

Mitchell started nipping at Watertown's lead when eighth-grader Kristin Sabers hit back-to-back shots inside, senior Taylor Overweg knocked down a 3-pointer and senior Kendra Knight hit three-straight free throws after being fouled behind the arc.

After Heiser answered with a 10-foot jumper, Mitchell senior Caitlin Way dropped an inside shot and classmate Whitney Morgan pulled the Kernels within seven after two shots from the free-throw line.

"The seniors left it on the floor," Wes Morgan said. "They didn't take anything home with them. These kids haven't had much success in the past, and now they're starting to stick with some of these better teams."

Mitchell and Watertown traded baskets in the first quarter, which was highlighted by some fast-break points by the Kernels' Taylor Piper and Whitney Morgan.

But Watertown went on a 10-2 run in the second quarter, as the Arrows showed their transition offense in the second and third quarters.

"We challenged our kids in the second half to defend and get some points in transition," McClemans said. "We're a team that plays well in transition. We've got some athletic kids who can get out and run."

Mitchell finished the second quarter on a 6-0 run to pull back within four points.

"We get into situations where if something good happens, so goes the team," Morgan said. "And if something bad happens, so goes the team. We're running out of season. We're at the point where we've got to start coming around."

For Watertown, Kylee Merrigan finished with 10 points, and the team hit 23-of-53 from the field. After shooting 36 percent from the field in the first half, Watertown heated up in the second half and started taking more open shots, shooting 55 percent.

The Arrows outrebounded Mitchell 39-25, and many of their rebounds in the first half led to second-chance points.

"We've been for the most part a good offensive rebounding team," McClemans said. "We got some great second-chance points, so that was key."

Watertown is now 12-6 and is in second place in District 1. The Arrows play next on Thursday when they host Brookings on Thursday.

Mitchell dropped to 4-14 and travels to Yankton on Friday.

Although Mitchell is sticking with teams, seniors like Way are still frustrated with just moral victories.

"I think we're starting to play with more confidence and thinking that we can win," said Way, who finished with a team-high 11 points and 10 rebounds. "But obviously it isn't good enough because we're not getting any wins in the win column."