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Mitchell 'made some noise' at state tourney: Defense guides Kernels to fourth-place finish

RAPID CITY--It was an emotion-filled three days for Mitchell at the Class AA girls basketball state tournament. The Kernels (14-10) felt the exuberation of knocking off top-seeded Sioux Falls O'Gorman, 63-54, then suffered a 14-point loss to even...

Mitchell's Tess Limberg goes up for a layup between a pair of Harrisburg defenders during the third-place game of the Class AA girls basketball state tournament on Saturday in Rapid City. (Jeremy Karll / Republic)
Mitchell's Tess Limberg goes up for a layup between a pair of Harrisburg defenders during the third-place game of the Class AA girls basketball state tournament on Saturday in Rapid City. (Jeremy Karll / Republic)

RAPID CITY-It was an emotion-filled three days for Mitchell at the Class AA girls basketball state tournament.

The Kernels (14-10) felt the exuberation of knocking off top-seeded Sioux Falls O'Gorman, 63-54, then suffered a 14-point loss to eventual champion Brandon Valley and fell 49-44 to Harrisburg after leading by 10 at halftime. In the end, they took fourth place after coming in as the No. 8 seed.

However, being competitive against all three teams highlighted the Kernels' growth, according to coach Wes Morgan.

"Early on in the season, we're not playing with these three teams," he said. "As a group, they played their hearts out, they played well and they made themselves a really good basketball team."

Upsetting O'Gorman wasn't just the highlight of the season for Tess Limberg, though. It was the senior's favorite win in her career.

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"It was the best game I've had in four years," she said. "It was the most fun and the most memorable. It was a lot of fun knowing we could play that well together."

Mitchell's competitiveness stemmed from a defense that held teams to 51.7 points per game on 35 percent shooting. It also was able to contain a pair of Division I commits in Harrisburg's Jeniah Ugofsky (University of South Dakota) and O'Gorman's Emma Ronsiek (Creighton).

By face-guarding and putting an emphasis on ball denial, the Kernels held Ugofsky to 10 points on 1-for-5 shooting and Ronsiek to 11 points on 3-for-5 shooting. However, that didn't surprise the Kernels.

"Since we've played those teams before, we knew how to shut down players like that. And we knew the players we have were capable of it," said Limberg, who was named to the AA all-state team with Mackenzie Miller.

Limberg and Miller both paced the Kernels on offense, averaging 15.7 and 11.7 points per game, respectively, in the state tournament. The Kernels scored 48.3 points per contest as a team.

While both made up part of an all-senior starting lineup, the Kernels also had contributions from sophomores Avia Haley, Camryn Krogman, Macy Kempf and Haley Hohn, with Morgan saying, "The cupboard is not bare."

"We turned into a team that was offense and defense oriented, and we did that by practicing in the summer," Limberg said. "I think that if (the underclassmen) do that, they can be just as good or better than us."

For Limberg, the finish to her career was "bittersweet." However, she was pleased with Mitchell's improvement as the year went on. And Morgan felt the same way.

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"It was fun to get some excitement back in Mitchell," he said. "It was really fun to help a team get better, and to get to get back to the state tournament and try to make some noise in it. I think we did that."

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