Kernel girls opening season with high expectations
Deservingly so, expectations are high for the Mitchell High School girls' basketball team.
Head coach Wes Morgan's defending state champion group returns four starters, has two first-team all-state players and an in-your-face defense that held opponents to 41.8 points per game last season.
"It's supposed to be a good year again," said senior forward Kristin Sabers, anticipating the start of the season. "Everyone is a year older and more mature and our team chemistry is great."
At 7:30 p.m. today in Brandon, the Kernels play Brandon Valley in an Eastern South Dakota Conference matchup to kick off their quest for a repeat.
Sabers, Kerri Young, Macy Miller and Megan Farnham all are returning starters and Courtney Moore is taking the place of Mitchell's lone graduated starting senior from a season ago, Dana Misiaszek.
Young and Miller, both South Dakota State basketball recruits, were first-team all-state selections last year. A 6-foot senior forward, Young averaged 18.9 points and 6.6 rebounds per game last year, while Miller -- a 6-foot junior point guard -- put up 15 points and 4.4 rebounds.
"Last year we got the experience playing against good teams," Young said. "Now I think we're just ready to go out there and do what we did last year."
Sabers, a 6-foot senior forward, averaged 8.1 points and 4.9 rebounds last year, Farnham scored 4.8 points per game last season, while Moore came off the bench to average 4.9 points. All three are seniors.
"We're kind of the same team, just a little stronger," Morgan said. "We're not going to try and re-invent anything here. We know what worked last year and now we just need to get better at it."
Morgan said he's planning to keep at least two of the trio of Young, Miller and Sabers on the court at all times this season. Coming off the bench are guards Berkley Rietveld, a senior, Torrie Michels, a junior, and sophomore forward Taylor Volesky.
"Berkley Rietveld will be the first off the bench," said Morgan, who added juniors Shelly Iburg and Emma Schmidt will also see some time off the bench. "Defensively, she's going to be a sore on somebody. Torrie has really improved her outside jump shot.
"Taylor Volesky will come in for the posts. She's really improved, catching the ball and making some moves."
The Kernels went 24-1 en route to the school's first girls' basketball title since 2003. Their only loss was against Sioux Falls Lincoln, a team they'll host Feb. 15 at the Corn Palace.
After the loss, they rattled off 19 straight wins, including the 56-54 win over Sioux Falls Washington in the state championship game. Besides the state championship, a few of the notable achievements for Mitchell last season were winning the ESD Conference with an unbeaten record, an undefeated record at home with 15 wins and claiming the District 3AA championship.
This season, Morgan hasn't set any specific goals.
"I think more than anything, we want to live up to the expectations and playing up to our abilities," Morgan said. "If we can do that, good things will happen. ESD championship is a possibility. State championship is a possibility."