A full-game focus helped Mitchell girls pull off biggest upset in Class AA SoDak 16 history
“We know we’re No. 12, no pressure on us, nobody’s expecting us to win. Except us,” coach Dave Brooks said after beating Brandon Valley.
BRANDON, S.D. — It seemed impossible.
There was no way — especially after falling 55-33 to the same Brandon Valley team the game prior — that the Mitchell girls basketball team could pull off the biggest upset in Class AA girls SoDak 16 history.
That’s exactly what the Kernels did, though. And it didn’t come as a surprise to 12th-seeded Mitchell.
Coming in, coach Dave Brooks told his team to not look at the No. 12 seed before its name or the No. 5 seed before Brandon Valley’s name, but instead to focus solely on the task in front of them and try to play a well-rounded game from start to finish.
“We know we’re No. 12, no pressure on us, nobody’s expecting us to win. Except us,” Brooks said following the win. “We said, ‘It’s got to go right from the get-go. We can’t wait, we got to go hard right now.’ They answered the bell.”
Right from the jump, the Kernels opened up a 9-2 lead, but hanging with one of the state's top teams shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise. Even in the 22-point loss six days prior, Mitchell held a one-point lead after the first quarter and was down 19-18 midway through the second frame.
And despite losses to other top teams in the class, the Kernels were within six points of top-seeded Sioux Falls Washington in the fourth, seven points of No. 2-seeded Pierre in the fourth quarter and clawed back from down 18 in the fourth to lose by nine to fourth-seeded Sioux Falls Jefferson.
All season, Mitchell has hung around with the top dogs of AA, and in the SoDak 16, the Kernels finally prevailed.
“We played to the end. The third game of the season, we were talking about playing a good 32 minutes,” Sawyer Stoebner, who picked up a game-high 25 points, said after taking down Brandon Valley. “And that’s finally what we got on the game that really, really counts. ...
"I feel like I got a few more happy tears to cry," she added.
The win also snapped a six-game skid that Mitchell was on, with four of those losses coming to teams in the upcoming state tournament in Watertown, Washington, Pierre and O’Gorman, as well as Brandon Valley and Aberdeen Central.
But Brooks said the losing streak was never brought up. The first-year head coach told his team to focus on “playing hard and trying to get 32 minutes out of the game.” The result was Mitchell’s best performance and biggest win of the season and ultimately a trip to the state tournament at the Pentagon in Sioux Falls, which starts Thursday, March 9.
It doesn’t get easier for the Kernels, who begin their quest for a state title with a game against Jefferson at 1:45 p.m.
“It’s got to be our best game we played all year for 32 minutes. It’s the best team we’ve beat, no question about that,” Brooks said of the victory. “Best team, best game, good time to have it, I guess. Hopefully we can bottle some of this up and take it to the Pentagon next week.”