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Sizing up the competition: Kernel girls experiment with bigger lineup in win over Huron

Mitchell's Mackenzie Miller (42) shoots as Waconia's Ava Stier (33) tries to defend on Dec. 28 in the Hoop City Classic at the Corn Palace. (Matt Gade / Republic)

HURON—The Mitchell High School girls basketball team likes to play an up-tempo brand of offense. The Kernels want to launch 3-pointers in the half-court and in transition.

But, in Saturday's 67-46 Eastern South Dakota Conference win over Huron, Mitchell made a point to enter the ball into the post.

The Kernels (4-3) started offensive sets by entering the ball into the high post and then looked to the low block or to the wing for an outside shot.

They were rewarded for their efforts, shooting 10 of 22 from beyond the 3-point arc, while forward Mackenzie Miller had perhaps her best game of the season, with 12 points, nine rebounds and three assists.

"When we inside-out to start with and try to get some kids open on the perimeter," MHS head coach Wes Morgan said. "In this case, they had to double Mac a little bit and we found kids open. We knocked those shots down and we made layups."

Payton Morgan flourished with the game plan, finishing with a game-high 19 points on five 3-pointers. She was also frequently the player stationed at the elbow and was able to hand out four assists.

Mitchell still put shooters on the floor and played an aggressive full-court press, but it also went with a bigger lineup at times. Oftentimes this season, the Kernels have staggered forwards Miller and Haley Hohn, but they played together frequently on Saturday in hopes of bolstering an inside presence on both ends of the court.

"After we played Harrisburg—they've got big kids—and we're going to have to play (Miller and Hohn) together," Morgan said. "I want to see if we can get Mac to play the four and get her on the perimeter a little bit and play Hohn inside to give us a little more size on the defensive end. You've got to go get rebounds and our little 5-foot-6 guards can't rebound with the 6-footers."

Mitchell returns to the Corn Palace with a game against Pierre on Thursday.

Second quarter blues

For many teams, slumps come at the start of games, or to start the second half and even to close out games in the fourth quarter.

For the Mitchell boys basketball team, the second quarter has been its bugaboo all season. Heading into Saturday's contest at Class AA No. 3 Huron, the Kernels had been outscored 99-47 in the second frame, only gaining an advantage when they played the Tigers back on Dec. 8 at the Corn Palace.

The issue reared its head once again on Saturday. After using a 10-2 run to take a 17-11 lead leading into the second quarter, Mitchell went scoreless for more than five minutes as Huron outscored its guests 20-7 in the period, en route to a 63-52 win.

"I wish I knew what that is," MHS head coach Todd Neuendorf said. "...I don't know if I need to come out and run some sets in the second quarter so we get shots we're comfortable with. I wish I knew, because I'd fix it. ... We've had three basketball games where if you score any points at all, you have a chance to win."

The Kernels (0-7) took care of the ball better than any point in the season and had more balanced scoring than in the previous six games, but Huron battered them in the paint and on the boards.

The Tigers won the rebounding battle, 35-25, and captured nine more offensive rebounds.

Huron also managed to get to its spots in the paint, and did so without one of its top forwards, Kobe Busch, who suffered a foot injury. Teegan Evers picked up the slack, scoring 26 points and snatching 11 rebounds.

"I think sometimes teams play better when their guy's not there," Neuendorf said. "He's not there, so the ball's moving. If he's on the floor, he's going to have the ball and all the focus is on him and the ball stops a little bit because it's in the best player's hands. You've got to give (Huron) credit. They did a nice job and they have a lot of pieces that are playing really well."

Mitchell plays in its first true road game of the season at Pierre on Friday.