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Prep Focus: Cavanaugh becomes go-to guy for Kernels

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Mitchell's Carter Cavanaugh (20) shoots between a pair of Sioux Falls Roosevelt defenders Jan. 5 at the Corn Palace. (Matt Gade / Republic)2 / 2

At the midway point of the season, Mitchell boys basketball coach Todd Neuendorf noted the team was looking for scorer who could “take the bull by the horns.”

Since then, Carter Cavanaugh has been that Kernel player.

Cavanaugh has emerged as Mitchell’s go-to scorer, desperately needed as the team tries to kick-start its offense in a difficult season.

The 6-foot-2 senior is the team’s leading scorer at 13.2 points per game but has stepped it up as of late, scoring 17 points per contest in the last eight games for Mitchell.

That included 26 points at Brandon Valley on Jan. 25 and 27 points at home against Brookings Tuesday, in which Neuendorf said Cavanaugh almost single-handedly willed the Kernels to victory.

“He’s stepped up for us,” Neuendorf said. “I think in the past he’s been more of a role player, so being a primary scorer has been an adjustment for him but he’s handled it really well. I’m really proud of him because he’s a great player and he’s a great leader on this team.”

The season hasn’t gone as well as the Kernels hoped, as Mitchell remains in search of a victory after an 0-16 start this season. But Cavanaugh said this season has been a large improvement, even if it doesn’t show in the standings.

“Considering how last year went to where we are now, it’s been leaps and bounds,” Cavanaugh said. “I know it doesn’t show in the record but we’re competing in every game and we’re giving ourselves a chance. Now, we just have to capitalize on those opportunities.”

Cavanaugh said he didn’t want to be selfish with the ball early in the season but Neuendorf urged him to be more aggressive to help the Kernels offense.

“But I’ve realized that when I get opportunities, that helps get opportunities for my teammates because if I can get past my guy, that will draw defenders that will help get my teammates into a rhythm,” he said.

Neuendorf said Cavanaugh has made huge strides and said he wished that he had more time with the Mitchell’s group of seniors, including Cavanaugh who has led well with a growing program.

“Sometimes, those kids that are seniors in the first year of a program, they have a hard time because there’s a lot of changes and they’re in a tough spot,” Neuendorf said. “They might mail it in. Carter doesn’t mail it in and he’s given us a lot this year.”

Neuendorf also noted that Cavanaugh leads the team in assists, something not normally seen in high school basketball. Cavanaugh said Tuesday’s loss against Brookings showed glimpses of what can be accomplished if the team is knocking down shots.

“Maintaining that high level of play and hitting those shots is what we need to do but if we can get hot, we can play with anybody,” he said.

The Kernels play at Yankton on Friday.