Mitchell girls basketball to rely on defense as players embrace new roles

The Kernels enter Year 3 under head coach Cole Knippling

Mitchell's Taylor Giblin (11) brings the ball up the court as Campbell County's (Wyo.) Halle Hladky (0) defends during a game in December 2020 at the Corn Palace. (Matt Gade / Republic)
Matt Gade

Another year under head coach Cole Knippling and the Mitchell High School girls basketball team have begun to feel comfortable under the new coaching regime and new system.

As Knippling enters his third year as Mitchell’s coach, the Kernels have improved every year going from 8-13 in 2019 to 16-8 in 2020, but after six seniors left due to graduation, the team is adjusting to new roles and players who fought for playing time last season, will be heavily relied upon this season.

“Last year, it was the second year in the system and I thought the comfortability of everyone knowing what we needed to do and how we needed to do it helped,” Knippling said. “We had really good senior leadership last year and lost a lot of scoring and rebounding, so we’re going to have to learn some new roles. Since it's Year Three, our goal is that there isn’t as much learning to do but it’s just getting adjusted to the new speed.”

The Kernels will feature a lineup that consists of point guard Sawyer Stoebner, a 5-foot-8 sophomore who will be playing point guard for Mitchell for the first time, but is capable of handling that assignment, Knippling said. Sarah Sebert, 5-foot-7 senior, will be upgraded into the starting lineup and Knippling said she is one of the players the team can trust in big moments.

“Sawyer is just a sophomore but she’s really talented, very athletic and she can do a lot on the floor,” Knippling said. “She’s going to have to step into a new role and position, which will be different for her, but I know she can definitely handle it. … As for Sarah, she can really shoot it and she makes a lot of winning plays on both ends of the floor, so we have to trust that she can keep doing that.”


Taylor Giblin, a junior guard, is another player Knippling has high expectations for and said she not only will have to be aggressive offensively for the Kernels this season, but will have the assignment of guarding the opponents' perimeter threats.

Seniors Aliyah Howard and Kaitlyn Christensen are two players who hadn’t had much varsity playing time in the past, but will also be in a new role this season and expected to contribute at the beginning of the season. Freshman Lauren Van Overschelde will be another Kernel expected to have a key role on Mitchell’s team this season as well.

The Kernels look to fill voids from Adaya Plastow, Camryn Krogman and Macy Kempf, all three of whom are now on Great Plains Athletic Conference basketball rosters. Last year's starting guard Avia Haley also graduated as well as Ella Flippin and Gabby Sonne.

Those seniors accounted for much of Mitchell's scoring a season ago for a team that averaged 54.4 points per game and shot nearly 50 percent from the field. The Kernels also averaged 29.6 rebounds per game, 9.7 of them being offensive rebounds. Knippling said they’ll have to create easy looks on offense and that starts with their defense, in hopes of producing more transition opportunities.

“We have to learn how to use our defense to create offense,” Knippling said. “It’s going to be hard to score strictly from the half court. We’re going to have to find ways to get easy buckets and we’re going to have to do that through our defense.”

After placing sixth in the Class AA state tournament last season, Knippling said they’re striving to get back to state, but they have to make the road easier on themselves by hosting the SoDak 16 game. Two years ago, Mitchell lost on the road to Sioux Falls Washington and last season, the Kernels beat Watertown to advance to the state tournament.

“The goal is to always get back there,” Knippling said. “You want to put yourself in a position where you get a good SoDak 16 game so give yourself a good chance to go. … The regular season is about setting the stage for that one game to get to state. We want to make sure we take care of business in our first 20 games so that we put ourselves in a game that could get us to state. We don’t want to be on the road playing against a top-5 team. We want a home game and that’s our first goal."

Branden is a sports reporter that graduated from Purdue University Northwest with a bachelor's degree in communications and a focus in journalism. He joined the Mitchell Republic in June 2021 and covers prep and collegiate athletics. He was also the lead on the Mitchell Republic Full-Court Press, providing a weekly web-exclusive look at high school basketball throughout all of South Dakota. Branden can be reached at and found on Twitter at @bhullreports.
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