Young Mitchell girls basketball team shows growth during state tournament campaign
“I think they did grow up and got a little more ice water in their veins or just got a little tougher to be able to handle that kind of a situation,” head coach Dave Brooks said.
MITCHELL — It was a season that featured a state-tournament win, a SoDak 16 upset and a lot of growth.
For the Mitchell girls basketball team, 2022-23 was trial by fire.
After losing senior guard Taylor Giblin to injury in the second game of the season, the Kernels started three underclassmen alongside senior Delana Henkel and junior Sawyer Stoebner for the remainder of the campaign. Even still, the Kernels made the Class AA state tournament as the No. 12 seed and won a game in Sioux Falls, coming home with sixth place.
The growth for Mitchell showed up during its SoDak 16 matchup against Brandon Valley, according to first-year head coach Dave Brooks. After watching a 10-point lead dwindle into a tie game, Mitchell didn’t flinch and took down the No. 5-seeded Lynx to advance to the state tournament.
“I don't know if four weeks or two months (ago) or early on that our team would have been able to withstand that kind of pressure and somebody coming at us,” Brooks said. “I think they did grow up and got a little more ice water in their veins or just got a little tougher to be able to handle that kind of a situation.”
Outside of Henkel and Stoebner, Mitchell started sophomores Carsyn Weich and Lauren Van Overschelde and freshman Addie Siemsen.
Stoebner improved upon her second-team all-state season from a year ago, averaging a double-double, while Siemsen stepped into the starting lineup and became the team’s second-leading scorer at over 10 points per game.
“I told them in the middle of the year, ‘You guys have had to kind of grow up without the benefit of playing much JV ball where you can make some mistakes. You’re here and you’re right in the varsity and that’s hard to do,’” Brooks said. “They handled that and their mental toughness was probably tested in some of those situations.”
Siemsen picked up 20 points on two occasions, including a season-high 21 against Sioux Falls Roosevelt, and the duo of Stoebner and Siemsen combined for 44 of Mitchell’s 53 points in the SoDak 16 win over Brandon Valley, pouring in 25 and 19, respectively.
Stoebner also helped Mitchell pick up a win at the state tournament, as she had arguably her best performance of the season against Watertown, racking up 24 points, 16 rebounds, six assists, four steals and four blocks.
Brooks also noted the growth of junior Allison Meyerink, who continued to improve as the season progressed, posting a season-high 17 points against Pierre late in the season.
For Brooks in his first season at the helm, he noted that there was even growth for him, especially in managing a game from the bench, and said his assistants McKenzie Mertens and Christina Siemsen were a help for him all season.
With such a big core of the team set to return next season, there’s optimism around the Kernels, especially given the trip to the state tournament. And despite a stretch at the end of the season where the Kernels lost six straight and faced off with four of the top-five seeds in the SoDak 16, Mitchell reached the goal it set out on back in December.
“Getting to the state tournament is everybody’s goal and it was ours at the beginning of the year,” Brooks said. “Early in the year, if you said, ‘Hey, you’re going to go 10-14 and get to the state tournament.’ I would have taken that, hands down.”