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Kernels clinch state berth with 51-44 victory over Sturgis

On Feb. 20, few would have predicted the Mitchell High School girls basketball team would be fighting for a state tournament position. The Kernels had a losing streak hit 10 games, and confidence ran dangerously low with only two regular season g...

Mitchell's Tess Limberg (20) gets around Sturgis' Donni Bruch, back, and drives to the basket during the Region 2AA play-in game on Monday at the Corn Palace in Mitchell. (Garrick Hodge/Republic)
Mitchell's Tess Limberg (20) gets around Sturgis' Donni Bruch, back, and drives to the basket during the Region 2AA play-in game on Monday at the Corn Palace in Mitchell. (Garrick Hodge/Republic)

On Feb. 20, few would have predicted the Mitchell High School girls basketball team would be fighting for a state tournament position.

The Kernels had a losing streak hit 10 games, and confidence ran dangerously low with only two regular season games remaining before the postseason.

But the Kernels won four of their final five games, including a 51-44 victory over Sturgis in the Region 2AA play-in game on Monday to secure a state title berth.

"The kids are learning," Mitchell head coach Wes Morgan said. "We knew there was going to be a time where the kids were going to figure it out. We didn't know when it was going to be, but with the talent that we have coming through, we knew it was going to turn sometime this year or next year, and we're lucky it happened this year."

The Kernels (6-17) will face top-seeded Sioux Falls Washington (20-2) in the opening round of the state tournament, which will be held March 17-19 in Sioux Falls.

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Part of the turnaround came from the emergence of junior forward Jenna Weich. Weich continued her scoring surge on Monday, adding 23 points on a 11-of-13 shooting effort in the Kernels' win over the Scoopers.

"I have to give credit to my teammates, they're the ones that get it to me in the post," Weich said. "They were really good at that tonight."

Like everyone else on the team, the losing streak took a toll on Weich, but she said she was confident the Kernels could play with their scheduled opponents at the end of the season.

"It's awesome that we pushed through it," Weich said. "We made a state tournament with having such a rough start. It was kind of tough to push through it sometimes, but we knew we could beat the teams ahead of us and make it to state."

Morgan said if it wasn't for Weich's improved play, the Kernels might not have made the state tournament.

"Jenna Weich was a horse today," Morgan said. "She was probably the difference-maker in the game. She was good inside, and that's probably where we had been struggling until these last five games. She's been putting it together and we have to hang our hat on somebody."

After holding a slim 13-11 lead after one quarter, Mitchell opened the game up in the second quarter, racing out to a 25-16 lead at the half.

"I think the second quarter when Brook Janz went out with an ankle injury really hurt us," Sturgis head coach Jordan Proefrock said. "She didn't come back until late until the third quarter, and she's our leading scorer and rebounder. Of course we got down by nine and they capitalized it. They got it into the post and we had a hard time defending that."

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Mackenzie Miller had eight points for the Kernels, while Mandy Schmidt and Tess Limberg had seven apiece and Erin Farnham contributed with six points and four assists.

"It was a straight-up battle," Morgan said, adding he was proud of the Kernels for forcing 28 Sturgis turnovers on 17 Mitchell steals. "Defensively, we got better as a team and got a little bit stronger. Our defense was better all the way through. When we press, the girls get cranked up. But we have to learn when we do get a steal, we can't just turn it back over again."

Mitchell shot 48 percent from the floor, while Sturgis shot 43 percent. The Kernels dished out 11 assists compared to the Scoopers' three. Alex Kelly led Sturgis with 16 points, while Loralee Stock had 13 points and 11 turnovers.

The Scoopers end their season at 4-19.

SHS 11 16 28 44

MHS 13 25 42 51

Sturgis (4-19)

Alex Kelly 5-10 2-2 16 Brook Janz 4-5 1-2 9 Loralee Stock 3-5 7-8 13 Janie Fritz 1-3 0-0 2 Oliva Jolley 0-3 2-4 2 Donni Bruch 0-3 0-2 0 Sierra Fischer 1-1 0-0 2 Eden Lambert 0-1 0-0 0 TOTALS 14-32 12-18 44

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Mitchell (6-17)

Erin Farnham 2-6 2-6 6 Brenna Morgan 0-3 0-0 0 Kendra Brewster 0-2 0-0 0 Mackenzie Miller 4-6 0-0 8 Jenna Weich 11-13 1-4 23 Jordyn Cranny 0-3 0-0 0 Tess Limberg 1-3 5-12 7 Mandy Schmidt 2-4 1-2 7 Chelsea Brewster 0-0 0-0 0 TOTALS 20-41 9-24 51

3-point goals: Sturgis 4-11 (Kelly 4), MHS 2-11 (Schmidt 2); Rebounds: Sturgis 32 (Bruch 7), MHS 12 (Weich 4); Assists: Sturgis 3 (Janz 2), MHS 11 (Farnham 4); Total fouls: Sturgis 18, MHS 18; Turnovers: Sturgis 28, MHS 13

Mitchell's Erin Farnham (11) drives to the basket at the Region 2AA state play-in game on Monday at the Corn Palace in Mitchell. (Garrick Hodge/Republic)
Mitchell's Erin Farnham (11) drives to the basket at the Region 2AA state play-in game on Monday at the Corn Palace in Mitchell. (Garrick Hodge/Republic)

Related Topics: KERNELSCORN PALACE
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