Kernels' Sawyer Stoebner named Class AA Spirit of Su award recipient

Mar. 10—SIOUX FALLS — In what has turned into a tremendous final year for senior Sawyer Stoebner, it's been marked by reaching milestones key to Mitchell girls basketball's success.

On Saturday night, Stoebner added to the collection, as she was selected as the Class AA girls recipient of the prestigious Spirit of Su award at the Sanford Pentagon.

She is the sixth Kernel, and fourth girl, to win the award, joining Erin Olson (2003), Jeana Hoffman (2004), and Macy Miller (2014). Brett Young (2009) and Caden Hinker (2022) have received the award on the boys side.

"It's a really big honor," a visibly emotional Stoebner said. "My parents have always stressed, 'You can get all-tournament team honors. You can get all these other honors, but the biggest honor is the Spirit of Su award.'"

The award, sponsored by the South Dakota Fraternal Order of Police, recognizes an outstanding senior state-tournament athlete who exemplifies the life of SuAnne Big Crow, the Lakota basketball star from Pine Ridge who was killed in a car crash in 1992. Student-athletes are recognized for athletic ability, sportsmanship, leadership, character and academic ability and must be nominated by their coaches.

"You talk about how great of a player she is, but now we find out how great of a person she is," Kernels head coach Dave Brooks said, "which we've known, but now she gets to share that with everybody ... She's very deserving."

That's exactly what happened, as friends and family who've followed the Kernel girls all season congratulated Stoebner in the hallway leading into the Pentagon, along with coaches, teammates, and others.

Throughout her run as an integral part on the Kernels, Stoebner has always prided herself on being a leader on the team and being a positive role model for her teammates. Not defined by skills and stats has been all the support she's received from those very close to her.

"My parents are more about character and leadership," Stoebner said. "They and my coaches have helped a bunch in me learning to grow, and I made it my goal to be a leader for our team."

For the record, Stoebner was an all-tournament selection, averaging a double-double in Sioux Falls with 18.7 points and 10.3 rebounds over the Kernels' three games. She also averaged 5.3 assists. In Friday's consolation semifinal game against Spearfish, Stoebner put up a signature performance, scoring 24 points and grabbing 17 rebounds.

She averaged 15.7 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 4.3 assists over the regular season, and scored her 1,000th career point against the Spartans on Feb. 3.

Stoebner is committed to play basketball for NCAA Division II Black Hills State next year. Having capped her prep career Saturday, the achievement just adds to the treasure trove of moments that have defined this season.

"It's not even about the placement (at state)," Stoebner said. "It's about the memories, and we definitely have some good memories that we made here."