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Bench steps up for foul-plagued Kernels in state opener

Mitchell High School girls’ basketball head coach Wes Morgan, center, talks to his team in the fourth quarter of a quarterfinal game against Sioux Falls Roosevelt during the Class AA state tournament in Brookings. (Nick McCutcheon/Republic)

BROOKINGS — The Mitchell girls’ basketball team has relied heavily on the same core of six players for the majority of its 22-1 season.

In the quarterfinal game of the Class AA state tournament Thursday at Frost Arena, Kernel coach Wes Morgan was forced to turn to some unfamiliar sources to secure the team’s closest win of the season.

Less than two and a half minutes into the fourth quarter, Mitchell had a third starter foul out. Seniors Torrie Michels, Emma Schmidt and Shelly Iburg — all of whom have been counted on for the majority of the minutes at their positions this season — all picked up a fifth foul.

Cassidy Musick, the first Mitchell player off the bench most of the season, stepped in at guard, while sophomores Erin Farnham, Ally Goldammer and junior Hallie Misiaszek each filled in for their more experienced teammates when the team needed them the most.

With Mitchell down 52-51 as Iburg exited, Kernel leaders Macy Miller and Taylor Volesky stepped up to lead the patchwork lineup to a 70-65 win over the Rough Riders.

“My heart is still pounding,” Misiaszek said 30 minutes after the game. “It was a fluke thing for them to foul out like that.”

Misiaszek had one of the more memorable moments of the game. After making a layup, she met Miller at half court for an intense high five. The outburst of emotion by Miller was the most the standout has shown all season.

“I just let my emotions out,” Miller said. “It’s scary when you lose three starters.”

Farnham, who started to see early minutes in games late in the regular season, had to come in in the first quarter when Michels left for several minutes after getting the wind knocked out of her. Farnham calmly stepped in and made a 12-foot jump shot, which brought a roar from the crowd.

“I didn’t expect this at all, but you have to be ready to play whenever,” Farnham said. “The seniors on this team make us better everyday in practice.”

The bench players did not come in and light up the scoreboard, scoring just five points combined, but Morgan praised the work of his bench, including Goldammer’s defense against Roosevelt’s Tagyn Larson, a University of Iowa commit.

Musick added a crucial free throw late in the game after pulling down an offensive rebound and getting fouled with just over a minute left to play to put Mitchell up three.

Morgan has a starting five that has gotten it done for his team all season, but the late developments in Thursday’s nail biter show that his bench can play in high-pressure situations.