For the first three quarters of the game, nothing was certain.

The Mitchell High School girls' basketball team ended each quarter down by nine or less, and only faced a seven-point deficit at the half as it hung strong with the defending Class AA state champions.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

But in the fourth quarter, Watertown stepped up and showed why they're the defending champs as they pulled away for a 64-45 victory over the Kernels Thursday night at the Corn Palace.

The Arrows entered the fourth quarter up 46-37, and after trading baskets with Mitchell, got a three-point basket from Jenna Sutton to go up 51-41, creating a hole the Kernels could not dig themselves out of.

"(Watertown) knocked down that three, after that we struggled offensively," Mitchell head coach Scott VanDerMillen said. "We were trying to force things. Up until that point I was pretty pleased with the way the kids played."

The Kernels started out quietly in the first quarter, making only 3-of-12 shots from the field and scoring only seven points, but scored 15 points in both the second and third quarters to stick with Watertown.

After grabbing a 15-7 first-quarter lead, the Arrows struggled with their shooting from the perimeter as a physical Mitchell defense kept any opportunities for long shots to a minimum for the Arrows.

"I thought that Mitchell would expose some things we don't do very well," Watertown head coach Pat McClemans said. "We're not very physical in the post and I thought we'd have a handful with that. (Mitchell) were very aggressive on the perimeter and kept us from trying to initiate offense from 20 or 30 feet out."

Mitchell outscored the Arrows 15-14 in the second quarter, despite an eight-point run by Watertown midway through the quarter.

Both teams were in foul trouble early, and the two combined to shoot 25 free throws in the first quarter alone. Watertown made 10-of-14 free throw attempts in the first half while the Kernels went just 5-of-11.

In the third quarter, the two teams came out and exchanged baskets, and, despite a few small runs, the Arrows were never able to really shake Mitchell off of their heels.

Megan Sexton came out and scored 10 points in the third quarter alone to keep Mitchell in the game.

"Our kids matched (Watertown) basket-for-basket for a while, and sometimes when you're a good team playing a team that's not so good, you don't expect them to match you," Van-DerMillen said. "That's when you start to play tentative, and I think Watertown did that."

With just seconds left to play in the third quarter, it appeared that Mitchell would enter the final frame down just 44-37, but Terresa Mallett hit a shot at the buzzer to give the Arrows a ninepoint lead.

The Kernels came out and exchanged baskets once more with Watertown, and a threepointer by Sarah Moody kept them within striking distance. But Sutton answered with her three pointer, and then the Arrows went on a six-point run and pulled away from there for the 19-point win.

"It just seemed like at the end we were standing around and we didn't get the ball moving as far as passing around the perimeter," Sexton said. "We need to move the ball around more."

Sexton finished with 18 points to lead Mitchell for the second consecutive game. Steph Vawser added 11 and Sarah Moody added nine.

"If we can get (Sexton) the ball a few more times, she could get a few more (points)," VanDer-Millen said. "She's stepped up and played well, especially in the last few games. I expect that out of her for being a senior and having the experience."

Tara Heiser led Watertown, which is now 3-0 overall and 3-0 in the Eastern South Dakota Conference, with a game-high 20 points and Kalie Cox added 12. The Arrows held a 39-26 advantage on the boards for the night.

The Kernels are now 0-3 overall and in the ESD, and are off until Tuesday when they host Huron.

"This is definitely the best intensity our team has had all year as far as coming out and playing hard all game," Sexton said. "Tuesday I think we need to have the same intensity as (Thursday), especially as much as we had in the first half. We definitely need to play hard."

WATERTOWN 64

MITCHELL 45

Watertown (3-0, 3-0 ESD)

Brittany Lehner 0-0 0-0 0; Jenna Sutton 2-4 0-2 5; Tara Heiser 5-14 5-6 20; Kali Gottsleben 3-10 4-6 11; Kalie Cox 5-12 2-4 12; Marcelina Glab 0-7 2-4 2; Abby Winkels 0-0 0-0 0; Terresa Mallett 3-14 3-5 9. Totals: 17-46 10-16 45.

Mitchell (0-3, 0-3 ESD)

Kendra Knight 1-3 0-0 2; Alli Fredericksen 0-1 0-0 0; Whitney Morgan 1-1 0-1 2; Taylor Piper 1-6 0-1 2; Sarah Moody 3-16 1-4 9; Caitlin Way 0-1 2-2 2; Kelli McPeek 0-0 0-0 0; Megan Sexton 8-12 2-2 18; Ashley Dorale 0-0 0-0 0; Steph Vawser 3-6 5-6 11. Totals: 18-61 16-27 64.

Three-point goals- Watertown 4-13; Mitchell 2-9. Rebounds-Mitchell 26, Watertown 39. Fouled out-Knight. Technical fouls-None.