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MHS coaches simulating noisy venue in practice

In the team’s final practice before departing for Frost Arena, Mitchell assistant coach Joe Shepardson cranked up the volume on the stereo at the Corn Palace Tuesday, playing an eclectic mix of pop hits from the last few years in an attempt to re-create the noise the Kernels anticipate facing this weekend.

“I remember turning to Kerri (Young), who was standing 5 feet away from me and she couldn’t hear a word I was saying,” former Mitchell star and current Dakota Wesleyan University basketball player Kristin Sabers said about the crowd noise the last time the Kernels played in the Class AA state tournament two years ago in Brookings.

The Kernels (21-1) begin their quest for a sixth state title as the No. 2 seed against No. 7 Sioux Falls Roosevelt (13-10) at 6 p.m. today.

“Coach (Wes Morgan) calls it our home court,” Mitchell senior guard Macy Miller said about Frost, which will be her home court starting in the fall when she suits up as a freshman for South Dakota State University. “We can’t come out nervous. We turn up the music so we can’t hear in practice to get used to it.”

The last time the Kernels left the court at Frost, they carried with them a championship trophy, topping Sioux Falls Washington 56-54 in the final of the 2012 Class AA state tournament. Another trophy could go through Washington again, with the Warriors being the No. 1 seed and on the other side of the eight-team bracket.

In 2011, the Kernels finished seventh at the state tournament held in Frost.

Former Kernel and current SDSU volleyball player Megan Farnham said playing in Brookings was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“Playing in the Corn Palace helped us with it being a bit of a bigger venue, but playing in Frost is something you have to get used to right away,” Farnham said. “When we got seventh, we were inexperienced, but coming back the next year we had been playing together so long that we finally just got things to click.”

Whether the Kernels finish first, second or eighth, it will be the last time for several Mitchell seniors to put on the black and gold for a game this weekend. Miller, who is averaging 30.2 points per game this season, is among five seniors with just a few games left. “Every season there is a last everything, and the girls don’t realize it yet, but they will,” Morgan said. “When they put that jersey on before their final game, it gets emotional but they don’t really feel it now.”

Seniors Torrie Michels, Emma Schmidt, Shelly Iburg and Cassidy Musick have all played an important role for this year’s Kernels and will look to end their careers with another banner for the Corn Palace with a successful weekend at Frost.

Morgan has been getting the team used to using non-verbal communication in practice, with eye and hand gestures to run through plays.

“It got crazy there a few years ago when it was real loud in that place,” Morgan said. “That Washington game was really a lot of fun to coach. It is nice when people will travel an hour and a half to come watch you play and you can put on a good show.”