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Kernel girls boast depth, balance in new season

As the 2015-16 Kernel girls basketball season came to an end, Mitchell coach Wes Morgan issued a challenge to his team to take the opportunity of the offseason to improve.

Mitchell's Kendra Brewster, center, looks to put up a shot during the 2015 Class AA state basketball tournament in Sioux Falls. (Matt Gade/Republic)
Mitchell's Kendra Brewster, center, looks to put up a shot during the 2016 Class AA state basketball tournament in Sioux Falls. (Matt Gade/Republic)

As the 2015-16 Kernel girls basketball season came to an end, Mitchell coach Wes Morgan issued a challenge to his team to take the opportunity of the offseason to improve.

In the early days of the season, it appears that challenge has been met.

Bringing back 12 returning letterwinners from a team that made the Class AA state tournament, the Kernels have a mix of depth and experience and a team Morgan expects to be balanced.

"The balance and the depth (stand out)," Morgan said. "Those freshman kids from last year have grown up and they're sophomores and the time that they're willing to put in, they're going to reap the benefits."

Morgan said it's a team full of players that have taken advantage of their chances since March haven't been afraid to put the work in.

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"I think these kids really like basketball," he said. "I think they're really enjoying it. We've got a good mix of size and got some dribblers, we've got some ball-handlers."

The Kernels have three inside players that return with experience from the starting lineup in sophomore Mackenzie Miller and seniors Jenna Weich and Kendra Brewster, who both double as team captains. Weich said the team has focused extensively on its offense, which averaged less than 40 points per game a year ago.

"We know we had our issues scoring last season, so that's been our focus," she said. "I think we've got the players to make some more shots this season."

Weich was the team's leading scorer in 2015-16, averaging 8.3 points per game. Miller led the team in field goal percentage and rebounds.

"We've done a lot of conditioning and weightlifting to get ourselves ready for the season," Brewster said. "I think that will pay off for us."

Mitchell graduated two guards in Erin Farnham and Brenna Morgan from last year's team. Sophomores Jordyn Cranny, Tess Limberg and Mandy Schmidt each got extensive playing time a year ago, hopefully making the transition to a new season a bit more seamless.

"For me, the big thing is putting it all together and trying to put a quality product on the floor and to be in every game," Morgan said. "That's one of our goals, we want to be in every game."

Last season was mostly sour for the Kernels, who were 6-20 and had lost 10 games at one point. But it was the finish that counted the most, as Mitchell won four of its final five games and qualified for the state tournament, which Morgan said served as motivation.

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"It showed where we were at and how far we've come and how we've still got to go," he said. "If we put the time in, this is where we can go. We have to get sophomores to play like upperclassmen and that's a tough thing to do but I think the state tournament trip was a motivational factor for this offseason."

Morgan mentioned Aberdeen Central, Brandon and Harrisburg as being the favorites in the Eastern South Dakota Conference. At the same time, Morgan said he expected the games to be tight once again in the league.

"If you don't put your hat on the right way, you can get beat," he said.

The Kernels' first three games are away from the Palace City, starting at Class AA defending champions from Aberdeen on Dec. 13 and five of the first seven games are on the road. The home opener is Dec. 22 against Yankton and the back half of the schedule is more friendly, with five of the final eight games at the Corn Palace. Weich said the team has had a strong set of practices and is motivated to return to the state tournament again.

"It's helped to push ourselves to get back to that point again this year and maybe even do a little better," Weich said. "We want to show people what we have."

Related Topics: KERNELSGIRLS BASKETBALL
Traxler is the assistant editor and sports editor for the Mitchell Republic. He's worked for the newspaper since 2014 and has covered a wide variety of topics. He can be reached at mtraxler@mitchellrepublic.com.
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