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Defense holds strong, Mitchell girls earn third-straight win on the road

The Kernels continue to roll as they slowed down the fast pace Cavaliers to win their sixth straight game of the season.

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SIOUX FALLS – Another strong, defensive effort leads the Mitchell High School girls basketball team to its sixth-straight win of the season.

The Kernels (7-6) held Sioux Falls Jefferson to 14 points in the first half and withstood a fourth quarter run by the Cavaliers to earn a 46-40 victory. Mitchell has now won three-straight road games, all against Class AA opponents sitting above them in the standings.

“We did a fantastic job of taking away their strength,” Mitchell head coach Cole Knippling said. “Jefferson has a good guard and the girls did a good job of closing the gaps and limiting the penetration in the lane. We made almost every post catch really tough. When you take away their top two scorers, you make it really hard for them to do what they’re good at and we made them settle for threes.”

As the Kernels stormed into Sioux Falls Jefferson for its first ever game against the inaugural program, Mitchell knew it had to slow down a fast-paced team and once they got the lead after the first possession, they didn’t relinquish it.

In the first quarter, they scored three of their first four shots and played great defense, forcing the Cavaliers to shoot 3-of-12 from the field and 0-of-6 from 3-point range.

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Jefferson tried to speed the Kernels up in the second quarter with more on-ball pressure than Mitchell was accustomed to. Each time down, Mitchell’s point-guard Sawyer Stoebner was met by Jefferson’s Cierra Watkins or Jaidyn Dunn immediately after she crossed half-court. After Mitchell wasn’t fazed by simply making the right reads and getting its first double-digit lead of the game, Jefferson switched to a full-court press.

Jefferson was able to force Mitchell to commit three straight travel violations after the switch defensively. Dunn also had a block at the rim when Mitchell finally broke the press and even had two tipped passes on two separate inbound plays. Jefferson was swarming the Kernels, but unfortunately for the Cavaliers, they were struggling offensively just as much as Mitchell.

Jefferson was scoreless the first five minutes of the second quarter until Kassidy Larsen drained a 3-pointer. Lauren Van Overschelde and Stoebner managed to score two layups before the half to extend the lead back to seven.

“We had a couple bad stretches, especially in the second quarter when we had eight turnovers,” Knippling said. “We had to slow down and start attacking based on matchups and play really smart. We recognized what would work at the right time and we were always doing enough to keep ourselves ahead of the pace.”

At the start of the third, it was Mitchell bringing the pressure to the home team, forcing the Cavaliers to commit three straight turnovers and take an early timeout. Jefferson had five turnovers in the third quarter and were now shooting 2-for-14 from three while Mitchell reached its largest lead of 11.

Jefferson made a run in the fourth quarter cutting the lead to four, but Mitchell held off the Cavaliers making nine of its 11 free throws to seal the game.

Stoebner led the Kernels with a double-double of 17 points and 12 rebounds. Senior Kaitlyn Christensen had eight points, nine rebounds, three assists and three steals while Van Overschelde, Sebert and Taylor Giblin each scored seven points. Van Overschelde and Sebert both had five rebounds a piece as well.

For Jefferson, Taliyah Hayes finished with a team-high 15 points while Dunn had 8 and Kassidy Larsen had six.

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It’s been quite the turn in a season for the Kernels as they’ve gone from 1-6 to start the year to a 7-6 record currently. As they prepare to host Sioux Falls Roosevelt at the Corn Palace on Feb. 3, Knippling said the growth he's seen in his team has been more than satisfying.

“It feels amazing to do what we’ve done so far,” Knippling said. “You always want to win a bunch of games, but as a coach the funnest seasons are the ones where you see the most growth. The true, great feeling this year is how much we’ve grown as a team and every single girl has stepped up in their role. It’s very fulfilling as a coach and I hope it's just as fulfilling for them as players too.”

Mitchell 46, Sioux Falls Jefferson 40

Mitchell (7-6): Sawyer Stoebner 6-19 5-9 17, Kaitlyn Christensen 3-5 2-2 8, Lauren Van Overschelde 3-8 1-3 7, Taylor Giblin 1-4 4-4 7, Sarah Sebert 2-6 1-2 7. Totals 15-44 13-20 46.

MHS 12 21 35 46

SFJ 7 14 26 40

3-point field goals: M: 3-13 (Sebert 2-5, Giblin 1-1, Van Overschelde 0-2, Stoebner 0-3). Rebounds: M: 32 (Stoebner 12). Assists: M: 10 (Christensen 3). Steals: M: 5 (Christensen 3). Blocks: M: 2 (Christensen 1, Van Overschelde 1). Turnovers: M: 19.

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 bhull@mitchellrepublic.com and found on Twitter at @bhullreports.
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