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Mitchell girls extend home win streak to 36

On almost any night a basketball game is played at the Corn Palace, there are shirts that read, “Nice gym. Have you seen our Palace?”

And every team who’s played the Kernel girls’ basketball squad in the last several years is aware of how well Mitchell plays at the Corn Palace.

After Tuesday night’s 70-50 Eastern South Dakota Conference victory over Watertown, the No. 2 Kernels are riding a 36-game winning streak at home. Mitchell hasn’t lost at the Corn Palace since January 2011.

“It’s more comfortable, our surroundings are better and we’re familiar with the hoops and gym,” said Mitchell head coach Wes Morgan, whose team is 8-0 overall and 6-0 in the conference. “It’s a safe place that we play our best basketball. Hopefully, we can continue to do that going forward.”

Last year, the Kernels won all 12 of their home games, including two postseason contests, and went on to take second at the Class AA state tournament. In the 2011-12 season, Mitchell again won all 12 home games and went on to claim Mitchell’s first state title since 2003.

The most recent loss the Kernels have suffered at the Corn Palace came against Brandon Valley. Mitchell dropped the ESD contest 57-47 on Jan. 18, 2011. After the mid-season loss, the Kernels won seven straight home games en route to the state tournament, taking seventh that season. It was the first time qualifying for state since 2004.

This year, the Kernels have won five straight home games with five regular-season home games remaining.

Mitchell senior Shelly Iburg said the team takes pride in playing well in front of its home crowd.

“Coach Morgan always says we’ve been spoiled because we’ve been lucky to play here and win as many games as we have,” she said. “We do pride ourselves on winning.”

Mitchell could potentially host two more games in district play and bring its streak to 42 or 43 at the end of the season. The Kernels hit the road for three games, beginning with Sioux Falls O’Gorman at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in Sioux Falls.

Mitchell returns home Jan. 28 against Harrisburg.