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MHS girls open tonight against Pierre at Palace

Mitchell senior Macy Miller, left, guards Kernel coach Wes Morgan in drills in the team’s final preseason practice Thursday at the Corn Palace in Mitchell. The Kernels open their season against Pierre at 7 p.m. at the Corn Palace. (Nick McCutcheon/Republic)

The Kernel girls are ready for another run for the state championship and begin the quest against a ranked Eastern South Dakota Conference team today.

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The No. 5 Mitchell girls’ basketball team will tip off the 2013-14 season against No. 4 Pierre at 7 tonight at the Corn Palace in Mitchell.

“We are really excited for the start of the season,” said senior point guard Macy Miller, who will play at South Dakota State University next season. “We want to show teams that we shouldn’t be rated fifth. We should be higher.”

The season ended last year for Mitchell with a disappointing Class AA finals loss to Sioux Falls Lincoln, which saw the Kernels score a season low 36 points.

The Kernels will have some new faces this year to go along with veterans Miller and Taylor Volesky. Six players from last year’s squad have graduated, including Kerri Young and Kristin Sabers.

“I’m not worried about a letdown with this team,” Mitchell coach Wes Morgan said at the team’s final preseason practice Thursday. “I’m more focused on finding what is going to make us click as a team.”

The Kernels will need to replace 37 points per game from last year’s team, but having Miller back for her senior season should make the transition an easier one.

“We went to the basket a lot last year and we will still do some of that, but our outside game will be important if teams decide to scheme towards Macy,” Morgan said.

Last season, the Kernels outscored their opponents by an average of nearly 24 points per game, while holding opposing shooters to just 32 percent from the field. Mitchell was also efficient from the free-throw line, knocking down 73 percent of its attempts.

Ball security was another key for Mitchell last season, as the Kernels averaged just 9.9 turnovers per game, while forcing 15.8 from their opponents. Miller finished her junior season with 19 points and 5.8 rebounds per game.

“She is an opportunist and if you leave her open she will make you pay,” Morgan said.

The next highest scorer returning for the Kernels is Volesky, who averaged 3.3 points and 10 minutes per game.

“Taylor Volesky has done a great job of being second in command and when Macy comes off the court then she will be the go-to kid,” Morgan said.

Joining Miller and Volesky in the starting lineup are seniors Shelly Iburg, Torrie Michels and Emma Schmidt. Morgan said the first off the bench will likely be senior guard Cassidy Musick.

Michels averaged 2.3 points per game last year and came up with 12 steals, while Schmidt and Iburg will see their first significant playing time as Kernels.

“Torrie has been a defensive leader all along and Emma has done a great job of stepping and filling those leadership roles,” Morgan said.

The Kernels have the advantage of starting their season in the friendly atmosphere of the Corn Palace and Morgan sees that as a key for his kids to get to play in front of their fans.

“It will be more calming and we don’t have to go out to Pierre and have their fans chanting at us,” Morgan said.

Mitchell plays three of its first four games at home to start the season.

Pierre comes in with a pair of SDSU commits in senior Kaitlyn Severyn and junior Sydney Palmer. The Governors lost in the region championship to Sturgis in overtime last season.