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Kernel girls tame No. 2 Harrisburg with defense

Mitchell senior Tess Limberg (4) splits a pair of Harrisburg defenders during a game in the Dakota Wesleyan Univeristy Culver's Classic on Friday at the Corn Palace. (Nick Sabato / Republic)

Sometimes lightning strikes twice.

Nearly a year after the Mitchell High School girls basketball team upset then No. 4-ranked Harrisburg, the Tigers returned to the Corn Palace on Friday ranked No. 2 and holding an 18-point win over the Kernels from Jan. 3.

Needing a signature win, Mitchell (9-6) retooled its game plan for a first ever appearance in the Dakota Wesleyan University Culver's Classic, and it paid off as the Kernels used an aggressive defense and a patient offense to tame the Tigers, 63-51.

"We want to be in the mix," MHS head coach Wes Morgan said. "The only way to be in the mix is to get in the mix and there. I thought, tonight, we did a good job of being focused and not doing too much, but not doing too little, also."

Mitchell scored the first eight points of the game, but Harrisburg (13-4) returned the favor by rattling off a 14-2 run in the next 5 minutes until Tayler Factor scored back-to-back baskets in last minute of the first quarter to right the ship.

The Kernels played a box-and-one defense on Harrisburg standout Jeniah Ugofsky, rotating Jordyn Cranny and Mandy Schmidt every 2 minutes. The duo held her to five points in the game, enabling the other guards to jump into passing lanes.

Factor and Tess Limberg combined for nine steals, with all of them coming in the first half as Mitchell turned a seesaw second quarter into a 33-25 lead at halftime.

"They were doing a real good job of seeing where the ball was coming from," Morgan said. "They were just smart and they were getting hands on it—tipping it here and there. I thought our kids came out aggressive."

As the defense ramped up the aggressiveness, the offense followed suit, but not in typical Mitchell fashion. Rather than playing an up-tempo style and relying on 3-point shooting, the Kernels held the ball late into the shot clock to find high-percentage shots or get to the free-throw line.

Mitchell shot 56.4 percent from the field, while also going 15-for-20 from the free-throw line and using a balanced scoring attack. Limberg scored a game-high 19 points, going 6-for-9 from the field and 7 of 9 from the charity stripe to earn MVP honors for the game, which is given to a player from each winning team at the event.

Mackenzie Miller added 16 points and six rebounds, while Factor stuffed the stat sheet with 12 points, eight rebounds, five steals and four assists.

"We've been working on some new stuff offensively and trying to get better shots—closer shots to the hoop and not 3-pointers," Morgan said. "We want to get to the basket and we did attack it. I thought Tess and Tayler really attacked the basket hard tonight."

Payton Morgan chipped in eight of her 11 points in the second half for the Kernels, who have won three straight games.

Carolyn Haar led Harrisburg with 12 points.

Mitchell returns to action at Pierre on Tuesday.

Mitchell 63, Harrisburg 51

Harrisburg (13-4): Jeniah Ugofsky 1-4 3-4 5, Sadie Roth 1-5 0-0 3, Kiki Berndt 3-7 0-0 9, Brecli Honner 2-6 1-1 5, Faith Van Holland 3-5 1-1 8, Emilee Boyer 2-3 0-0 4, McKenzie Beaner 2-5 0-0 5, Carolyn Haar 4-6 0-0 12. Totals 18-41 5-7 51.

Mitchell (9-6): Mackenzie Miller 7-11 2-2 16, Tess Limberg 6-9 7-9 19, Jordyn Cranny 2-3 0-0 5, Payton Morgan 4-8 0-1 11, Tayler Factor 3-6 6-8 12, Mandy Schmidt 0-2 0-0 0, Haley Hohn 0-0 0-0 0, Macy Kempf 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-39 15-20 63.

H 14 25 39 51

M 14 33 44 63

3-point field goals: H 10-19 (Haar 4-4, Berndt 3-7, Beaner 1-1, Roth 1-3, Van Holland 1-3, Honner 0-1), M 4-10 (Morgan 3-5, Cranny 1-2, Limberg 0-1, Schmidt 0-2). Rebounds: H 19 (Ugofsky 7), M 21 (Factor 8). Assists: H 12 (Honner 5), M 11 (Factor 4). Blocked shots: H 5 (Ugofsky 2), M 2 (Factor, Kempf). Steals: H 5 (Ugofsky 2), M 10 (Factor 5). Turnovers: H 18, M 11. Total fouls: H 19, M 14.

Sub-varsity scores: JV: Harrisburg 54, Mitchell 49.