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Kernels fall in Class AA title game to SFW

From left Mitchell senior Macy Miller, Sioux Falls Washington senior Sydney Koel, Mitchell senior Torrie Michels, junior Taylor Volesky and senior Shelly Iburg go up for a rebound in the girls' basketball Class AA state championship game Saturday at the Frost Arena in Brookings. (Sean Ryan/The Daily Republic)

BROOKINGS - Mitchell was unable to overcome a slow start, falling in the state title game for the second straight season.

The No. 2 seeded Kernels fell behind early after shooting 28 percent in the first half and lost 58-51 to No. 1 Sioux Falls Washington Saturday at Frost Arena in Brookings. The Kernels did rally, but could not close out the Warriors for a third straight year.

“We got off to a rough start and things didn’t go our way,” said Mitchell coach Wes Morgan, whose team beat the Warriors the last two years in the state tournament. “We showed a lot of toughness to come back the way we did, but couldn’t quite get it done.”

Blocked shots, offensive fouls and turnovers early cause the Kernels to not get on the board until just over four minutes into the game. Mitchell trailed by nine after two quarters.

The zone defense of Washington held Mitchell senior guard Macy Miller to 4-of-14 shooting in the first half, while the team scored a season-low 17 first-half points.

“Their zone was tough and we could have attacked it and been a little more patient with it,” Morgan said. “It was just a hard-fought battle.”

Washington’s Kelsey Knecht pushed her team in front, scoring 15 of her team-high 21 points, while hitting three 3-pointers in the first half.

The Kernels came out fired up on offense in the second half, outscoring the Warriors 18-9 in the third and tying the game heading into the final quarter.

But another 3-pointer from Knecht put Washington up seven points late and the Warriors held on to win their third Class AA state title, first since 2010.

Miller scored 15 of her game-high 25 points in the second half, breaking the South Dakota high school girls’ record for scoring in a season with her final bucket. Miller finished the season with 768 points, breaking the record for all classes set in 2006 by Mitchell Christian’s Jill (Young) Sargent.

“She is a player that I look up to and is a player I want to be like at (South Dakota State University),” said Miller, who will attend SDSU, the same school where Sargent played, in the fall.

Miller was also named to the all-tournament team and received the annual Spirit of Su award during a halftime ceremony Saturday.

Miller added 11 rebounds for the double-double, three assists, four blocks and two steals.

“I give a lot of respect to the Kernels for fighting back like they did,” Washington coach Nate Malchow said. “Macy is the best player I have ever coached against.”

Junior forward Taylor Volesky, who was also named to the all-tournament team, added 18 points, six rebounds and three steals in the loss. The Kernels shot 19-of-54 from the field and 10-of-17 from the free-throw line.

Sydney Koel and Ellie Bensen each chipped in 10 points for the Warriors, who outrebounded the Kernels 39-34. Each team had nine turnovers.

Five Kernels played their final game in black and gold, with Miller being one of four starters graduating. Seniors Torrie Michels, Emma Schmidt and Shelly Iburg each started every game for the Kernels in 2013-14, while guard Cassidy Musick, a key-role player for Mitchell, also graduates.

“It is always hard to say goodbye to a group of seniors,” Morgan said. “You have to deal with it for a couple of weeks and then start thinking about next year.”