The Mitchell High School girls basketball team capitalizes on its second chances.
Last season, the Kernels went 5-1 when facing a team for a second time. Despite a roster overhaul and first-year coach Cole Knippling leading the way, the trend continued on Saturday when they took down Huron, 60-52. This time, there wasn’t a third-quarter run to doom Mitchell, such as in its 48-41 season-opening loss.
The Kernels (3-4) play Harrisburg and Pierre twice, too. They fell to Harrisburg on Jan. 9 and travel to Pierre on Thursday.
“I think it helps a bunch,” Knippling said. “... The familiarity helps, but I was proud of how we learned from our mistakes in the first game and played so much cleaner in this one. It was a very clean game.”
The Kernels did so without starting point guard Adaya Plastow, who sat out with bruised ribs and is considered day-to-day. Sarah Sebert started in her place, and Knippling envisions the sophomore continuing to start if Plastow misses extended time. Camryn Krogman took over point guard duties, finishing with 19 points and five boards.
Even without Plastow, Mitchell found ways to correct the issues which plagued it earlier this year. After Havyn Heinz scored half of Huron’s points (24) in the first meeting, the Kernels’ effort to contain her was evident and centered around Avia Haley.
Haley face-guarded Heinz to deny her the ball, holding her to 15 points on 5-for-17 shooting. Heinz only had four points in the second half until making a 3-pointer in the closing seconds.
“I thought we really got after them,” said Macy Kempf, who had a 22-point, 10-rebound double-double. “We really got up into their face, we moved our feet and just stayed with them.”
Mitchell held Huron to 30.5 percent shooting and 6-for-22 3-point shooting, but it’s success has a distinct difference from last year. The Kernels no longer rely on a hectic press forcing turnovers, rather run a strong half-court defense grinding out stops. It allows 52.9 points per game this season.
Knippling wants to develop more depth before implementing a press. Mitchell played nine players on Saturday, but Taylor Giblin was the only bench player to reach double-digit minutes. Sebert played 22 minutes off the bench against Harrisburg, but no other reserve even reached four minutes.
“I’d like to press, but you need depth to press,” Knippling said. “And I just don’t know if we’re deep enough to press right now. I’m really worried about foul trouble. Our pressing is the idea of not tiring us out and not getting in foul trouble, so we can keep our girls solid.”
Knippling has preached developing depth since the off-season. That might remain a work in progress, but so far, this group has shown resilience.
After falling by 41 points at home to Brandon Valley, Mitchell played Class AA No. 3 Harrisburg tough on the road. It cut the deficit to single-digits in the second half and kept it from becoming a blowout. It still struggled to rebound, though.
On Saturday, the Kernels fixed that and out-rebounded Huron, 35-26.
“We were determined after that (Brandon Valley) game to be our best self and to play our best basketball,” Kempf said. “We really wanted to get this win.”