Kernels stun No. 5 Brandon Valley in SoDak 16, advance to girls Class AA state tournament
The Mitchell High School girls basketball team pulled off the upset of the Class AA postseason on Friday night
MITCHELL — It was arguably the longest minute of Sawyer Stoebner’s life.
But it was well worth the drawn out 60 seconds, as the No. 12-seed Mitchell girls basketball team pulled off the biggest upset in Class AA SoDak 16 history, taking down fifth-seeded Brandon Valley, 53-49 to advance to the Class AA state tournament.
Mitchell snapped a six-game losing streak, defeating the team they lost by 22 points to last week, and in the process returned to the Class AA state tournament for the third time in the last five seasons.
With the win, Mitchell (9-12) takes on Sioux Falls Jefferson in the state quarterfinals at 1:45 p.m. March 9, at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls.
After the Kernels had built up a lead as large as 12 points, the Lynx answered, clawing back and tying the game at 44 with just over three minutes to go in the fourth quarter. But Mitchell never wavered, answering on the very next possession with a layup from Addie Siemsen to reclaim the lead.
“We told them before the game, ‘This is not going to be easy,’” head coach Dave Brooks said. “(The players) were saying, ‘We got it. Eight more minutes.’ Or, ‘Six more minutes. Let’s just go.’ Credit to them for saying we’re not going to let this go.”
From there, a Sawyer Stoebner layup grew the Kernels lead back to two possessions at 48-44. Brandon Valley trimmed it to 48-46 with 46 seconds left and sent Stoebner to the line with 36 seconds on the clock in a two-point game.
Stoebner promptly made both free throws and knocked in another one down the stretch to ice the game.
“To put them in, I was like, ‘OK. One step closer, one step closer,’” Stoebner recalled of the late free throws. “I kept looking at the clock. I was like, ‘Holy crap, longest minute of my life.’ But it’s exciting.”
The junior finished with 25 points, while freshman Addie Siemsen tacked on 19 more for the Kernels. Lauren Van Overschelde finished with seven, two of which came from a pair of free throws with 24 seconds left that extended Mitchell’s lead to three points.
“That’s what they’ve done,” Brooks said of the big scoring outputs from Stoebner and Siemsen. “What a time to do it. That’s when the big players shine.”
Stoebner also came down with 14 rebounds, while the Kernels picked up 10 boards on the offensive glass as a team. Mitchell led the game 24-20 at halftime.
“Sawyer was doing everything, scoring, getting rebounds,” Brooks said. “Sawyer just goes and gets (rebounds).”
Hilary Behrens finished with 22 points, though Mitchell made a point to pick her up full court for most of the game and frequently face-guarding her in the front court.
Brandon Valley (15-6) had won nine games in a row entering the contest but the Kernels never trailed again after taking a 3-2 lead, keeping the Lynx at bay. The Kernels became the first 12-seed or lower since Class AA moved to the SoDak 16 format to win in the state-qualifying round.
“I knew that it would come together. We put in the work all week in practice, and (Friday) we came in just wanting to play our game and I’m so proud of the team,” Stoebner said. “We all had this goal, we all wanted this.”