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Kernel girls shake off slow start in win over Waconia

Mitchell's Mackenzie Miller (42) shoots around the defense of Waconia's Courtney Freeberg (35) during a game on Friday in the Hoop City Classic at the Corn Palace. (Matt Gade / Republic)

Coach Carl Pierson used a Munsen-ism.

Following Mitchell High School’s 59-50 win over Waconia (Minn.) Friday, Pierson referred to a comment from Gary Munsen, the late Mitchell basketball coach, in describing how his team, the Wildcats, played against the Kernels.

“He used to say, ‘Your heads are in Pukwana,’ and I think that’s where our heads were,” Pierson said.

Pierson is a Mitchell High School graduate and former Kernel basketball player. This is the second time in three years Pierson brought his squad to Mitchell for the Hoop City Classic, formerly known as the Mike Miller Classic.

“Obviously being a Mitchell guy, I hope (Mitchell) wins the rest of its games,” Pierson said. “Haven’t lived here for a while, but I still love the town and being at the Corn Palace is special and I’ll always be a Kernel fan.”

The win gave Mitchell its third win of the season. It’s the first time the Kernel girls played in the Hoop City Classic. Both teams struggled to maintain possession, with the Wildcats turning it over 20 times and the Kernels committing 17.

As a result, neither team sustained offensive momentum early. The Wildcats (7-3) scored the first nine points, but Mitchell ended the first half on a 22-5 run to take a 24-18 lead into the break.

Mitchell coach Wes Morgan attributed the run to Mitchell’s turnover-forcing press and it attacking the basket.

“(We made sure) to just get our feet ready,” Morgan said. “You’re not getting much time to shoot it because they’re tall, but you have to have your feet ready.”

Waconia’s height helped it grab 10 offensive rebounds and own a 34-25 advantage on the glass, though Payton Morgan had a game-high eight rebounds for Mitchell.

The Kernels kept their momentum to begin the second half as Tayler Factor scored the first five points after the break to extend Mitchell’s lead to 29-18. However, Waconia made another run, tying the game at 33 with 10:45 to play.

Thanks in part to a Payton Morgan 3-pointer and Mackenzie Miller’s successful three-point play, the Kernels responded with a 12-6 run and never let Waconia back in the game.

“In the second half, we couldn’t get a stop when we needed one,” Pierson said. “That’s where I really give Mitchell a lot of credit. Whenever they needed to come down and get a bucket, they could get whatever they wanted.”

Payton Morgan had 14 points and Miller finished with 11 for the Kernels. Payton Morgan also grabbed eight rebounds and Factor had three of Mitchell’s six steals.

Coach Morgan wasn’t surprised by his team’s multiple offensive contributors, saying, “That’s what we’ve been in the past and hopefully we can continue that. Everybody can shoot the ball and we just have to find the open one.”

Addy Salzer scored 13 points for the Wildcats on 6 of 10 shooting. Ava Stier had eight points, seven rebounds and three steals. The Wildcats shot 35.7 percent from the field and 2-for-16 from deep.

The Kernels shot just 6-for-26 from 3-point range but went 17-for-32 inside the arc.

Mitchell (3-2) travels to Harrisburg at 7 p.m. Thursday.

Mitchell 59, Waconia (Minn.) 50

Mitchell (3-2): Payton Morgan 5-14 3-4 14, Mackenzie Miller 5-8 1-1 11, Tess Limberg 3-11 2-2 8, Tayler Factor 3-8 0-0 7, Avia Haley 2-5 0-0 5, Camryn Krogman 2-3 0-0 5, Jordyn Cranny 1-6 1-2 4, Mandy Schmidt 1-2 0-0 3, Haley Hohn 1-1 0-0 2, Gia Winger 0-0 0-0 0. Team total: 20-56 8-11 59.

Waconia (7-3): Addy Salzer 6-10 0-0 13, Ava Stier 4-13 0-0 8, Tess Johnson 3-6 2-2 8, Courtney Freeberg 1-3 4-6 6, Sydni Olson 2-7 0-0 5, Jayda Lenz 1-8 2-2 4, Natalie Meath 2-7 0-1 4, Audrey Swanson 1-2 0-0 2. Team total: 23-58 7-9 50.

Halftime: M 24-18. 3-pointers: M 6-26 (Factor 1-3, Schmidt 1-2, Krogman 1-2, Cranny 1-6, Morgan 1-7, Haley 1-4); W 2-16 (Salzer 1-4, Olson 1-6). Rebounds: M 25 (Morgan 8, Miller 5); W 34 (Stier 7, Freeberg 6). Assists: M 17 (Limberg 6, Morgan 5); W 11 (Stier 3, Lenz 3). Blocks: M 0; W 1 (Meath 1). Steals: M 6 (Factor 3); W 11 (Stier 3). Turnovers: M 17; W 20. Fouls: M 11; W 16.

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