Kernels girls relish chance to avenge loss to O’Gorman
Mitchell plays Knights at 2:45 p.m. in state tourney
Cole Knippling knows how some might view the Mitchell High School girls basketball team’s first-round matchup against Sioux Falls O’Gorman.
The Knights earned a 28-point victory on Feb. 20, handing the Kernels (15-6) their most lopsided loss of the season by a wide margin. To Knippling, that loss showed every way Mitchell could lose a game to O’Gorman at 2:45 p.m. Thursday, so now it’s a matter of playing without pressure and not repeating the same mistakes.
“That’s my goal to try to make them understand: What’s there to lose? We’ve had an amazing season,” Knippling said ahead of his state tournament debut as the Kernel coach. “We lost by 28 to O’Gorman the first time. Nobody is going to expect us to win, so go in there, play loose and let the pressure be on them.”
The first meeting came on the second night of a road back-to-back series of games. The Kernels shot 0-for-12 from 3-point range, turned it over 19 times and struggled on transition defense. This time, Mitchell will have almost a week to put together a game plan, which has been crucial in its success this season.
“By getting a chance to prepare and getting a chance to get our legs under us before we play, that should make a 15-point difference right there,” Knippling said.
Still, led by Hannah Ronsiek (13.4 ppg/5.7 rpg) and Isabelle Moore (13.3 ppg/4.9 rpg), O’Gorman’s (15-6) only losses in February came in overtime to Sioux Falls Washington and Brandon Valley, and a three-point defeat to Aberdeen Central.
“They’re arguably one of the best teams going into the state tournament,” Knippling said. “Even though they’re the No. 4 seed, they’ve played as well as anybody the last three weeks of the year. We really have to be sharp.”
That starts with matching the Knights’ physicality, especially on the glass. They out-rebounded Mitchell, 34-27, in the regular season. Bergen Reilly paces them with a team-high 7.5 rebounds per game, while Raegen Reilly adds five boards.
Macy Kempf leads the Kernels in scoring (12.8 ppg) and rebounding (6.9 rpg), but Sawyer Stoebner also adds six rebounds per contest. Camryn Krogman scores 12.8 points per game, as well.
O'Gorman likely has some sore feelings about the last meeting between the two teams in the Class AA state tournament, when Mitchell defeated the top-seeded Knights, 63-54. The Kernels went on to finish fourth, while O'Gorman settled for sixth place.
The Mitchell-O'Gorman winner this time plays either top-seeded Sioux Falls Washington or Rapid City Central at 5:30 p.m. Friday. Meanwhile, the loser plays at noon in the consolation bracket.
“We’ve played all these teams at the end of the year. There’s a blueprint to beating every single one,” Knippling said. “... We have to go out and make it happen. If you want to win a state tournament, why not go out and beat the best teams on the way? We’re not going to hide from anybody. Let’s go out and go right at them.”