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Mitchell boys still in hunt for District 3AA top seed

Going into Tuesday night's game at Pierre, the Mitchell boys' basketball team controlled its own fate.

After the 54-51 setback against the Governors, the Kernels (12-2, 5-2 Eastern South Dakota Conference) will now need some help to regain the top seed before the district tournament, as they prepare to host Sturgis at the Corn Palace on Friday night.

Mitchell is now in second in the District 3AA standings with 42.31 seed points, while Pierre took the top spot in the district standings with a 12-3 record and 42.86 seed points.

Besides losing the top spot in the district standings, the Kernels also lost their unaccompanied No. 1 spot in the ESD standings. Before Tuesday's game, Mitchell held the top spot in the ESD, but now are tied with Pierre with 5-2 league records.

Head coach Gary Munsen said he would love to see his team regain the top seed for the district tournament, feeling that the top seed for would make the journey to the state tournament much easier.

"You'd always like to be home for both ballgames," Munsen said. "If you have the No. 1 seed, that means you're at home during the district and region both. If you can't win two out of three at home, then you don't deserve to be in the state tournament."

Tuesday's game was an eye-opener for the Kernels' players as to why home-court advantage is so pivotal.

"I think the crowd affected us a little bit," Munsen said. "We haven't been against a crowd like that. At the Corn Palace, they're all for us, and in Pierre there was probably 3,000 people and we probably had 100 people and they had 2,900."

The loss was only the second all season for the Kernals, the first coming in the second game of the year against the same Pierre team.

"That's the one that hurt us," Munsen said while talking about the first loss to Pierre. "The game (Tuesday) would have been somewhat meaningless if we would have won the one at home like we should have."

The Kernels have six regular season games before postseason play. If Mitchell wins out, it would still need Pierre to lose one contest to gain home-court advantage throughout district play.

Munsen is hopeful that Pierre will slip up against one of their final five opponents. Pierre has two big road challenges remaining with Sioux Falls O'Gorman (12-3) and Brookings (9-5) left on the schedule. Mitchell also has to travel to Brookings before the end of the season.

"If you're not ready to play, you're going to get beat," Munsen said. "We've got six games left, and we'll play them one at a time and see if we can win all six and maybe get a break."

This weekend, the Kernels host two games at the Corn Palace. Sturgis comes into town for a 7:30 p.m. tipoff on Friday. On Saturday, Mitchell hosts Spearfish at 1:45 p.m.