Becoming sharpshooters: Kernel girls eye return to state
The Mitchell High School girls basketball team's goal this season is straightforward—return to the state tournament.
Coming off a 7-14 season, with a SoDak 16 loss to Brandon Valley, the Kernels are determined not to let their inconsistent offense be their downfall once again.
"We need to get back to (state). Last year, I felt like we should've been there," Mitchell coach Wes Morgan said. "... We never got out, we just couldn't score in the Round of 16."
To make sure the Kernels don't suffer the same fate, they've put an emphasis on improved shooting since practices started as Morgan noted Mitchell's defense kept it in most games last season.
Although, Morgan said it's been a focus for a lot longer than a couple of weeks.
"In order to get better on offense, you need to do that in June, July and August," Morgan said. "I think our kids did a really good job taking it upon themselves to get in the gym and making themselves a better shooter."
Morgan believes all of his guards can knock down shots consistently, and as a result, he hasn't settled on a starting lineup yet. That said, once he settles on a rotation, he expects everyone to play heavy minutes given the fast tempo the Kernels will play to counter their lack of size.
The Kernels' lineup might not tower over the opposition, but they still have a viable center in 5-foot-11 senior Mackenzie Miller. Despite wanting to push the tempo, Miller will still have a significant role.
"It's going to be nice having her plugging that middle up," Morgan said. "(It's nice to have) someone with size in the middle and being able to post up and help get rebounds."
She is one of six seniors on the team this season, which has Morgan excited about the upcoming season. The other seniors include Tess Limberg, Jordyn Cranny, Mandy Schmidt, Payton Morgan and Tayler Factor.
Coach Morgan expects to lean on his senior class as their leadership is why he doesn't expect a defensive drop-off this season, despite three former players not playing this season.
To fill out its rotation, a few sophomores could turn into key rotational players, including Camryn Krogman, Avia Haley and Haley Hohn.
While Mitchell's focus is on an improved offense right now, Morgan expects its first couple of games to highlight other areas it needs to work on.
"After those first games, we'll know what we need to work on and which direction we can go in," Morgan said. "By being a work in progress, we'll see what we can get better at and what may not work."
The Kernels open their season at 5:15 p.m. on Saturday against Huron at the Corn Palace.