Newness and uncertainty rang through the Mitchell High School girls basketball team this season.
It found a way to replace its entire starting lineup from 2018-19 under first-year coach Cole Knippling, experiencing highs and lows as it bobbed up and down the standings. Players emerged in a new, always-developing system during its 8-13 season, which saw it end with a 65-48 loss at Sioux Falls Washington on Friday in the SoDak 16.
Next season, it’ll be the complete opposite.
The Kernels graduate reserve forward Gia Winger and captain Kelsey Dahme, but they return their entire starting lineup and enter the offseason with a more defined outlook.
“Last year we spent all summer trying to figure each other out. What can we do? What can we not? Now, we kind of know,” Knippling said. “… I think our summer can be a lot more focused, and hopefully that can lead to a quicker start to the season. That’s the goal.”
It won’t be an offseason filled with trying to implement a new system, or learning the team’s strengths and weaknesses. The experience will now be there -- with strengths and weaknesses evident -- as Knippling hopes to better define each player’s role and get it to gel.
Their roles started to take shape near the end of the season.
Macy Kempf was the Kernels’ do-it-all player on both ends, with her size and ability to move making her a mismatch against other post players. Haley Hohn added value on the glass and finished near the basket and Avia Haley was the Kernels’ 3-point specialist.
Adaya Plastow acted as the team’s facilitator, with Camryn Krogman stepping in at point guard at times. Krogman’s aggressiveness to get to the rim and shoot deep 3-pointers also showed later in the season.
“They’re going to have the experience,” Knippling said. “They’ve been through all of these scenarios. Now, it’s about understanding and expanding their roles, and trying to be consistent every single day.”
At times, Mitchell’s versatile starting lineup worked. It won four of five games in the middle of the season. Other times, it led to slow starts, poor end to quarters and scoring droughts.
Knippling’s goal is to not have the same weaknesses next season. He wants to see fewer turnovers, his team run the floor better and get the ball inside, while having more defensive options. The Kernels could also improve on their end-of-half execution.
“(This offseason is) going to be big for us,” Kempf said. “It’s going to be a make-or-break kind of deal. If we don’t put time in the summer, we’re not going to be better in the winter. We have to put time in now.”
Playing a faster tempo with more full-court pressure requires a deeper bench, though.
Taylor Giblin and Sarah Sebert both showed flashes on the perimeter at times. Atlanta Stahle and 6-foot sophomore Mariyha Turner both played sparingly, too. The rotation slimmed as the season progressed, but before the season, Knippling said his ideal rotation is 10-to-12 players deep.
“A lot of them are really close,” Knippling said. “… A lot of them are one or two little things away. It’s not a big leap, it’s a couple of little things.”
It’ll be an offseason of learning after a season full of it.
“A little coulda, woulda, shoulda regret. Just wishing that we could have had some different things in both offensively and defensively that would’ve led to more success,” Knippling said. “You just hope you can learn from it and get better. Learn from the past and make a change in the future.”