On Tuesday night, the Corn Palace was the site of a boys basketball tilt with two teams trending on opposite directions.
Mitchell High School entered the night still seeking its first win of the season, while its guest Sioux Falls Lincoln came in as the undefeated top-ranked team in Class AA.
The Patriots held the lead for most of the game, pushing their advantage to double-digits on multiple occasions and led by as many as 14 at one point. Yet with 2:57 left in the game, Caden Hinker turned a steal into a layup to give the Kernels a one-point advantage and bring the Corn Palace to life.
In the end, though, Lincoln's size inside proved to be too much to overcome as the upset escaped Mitchell's grasp, 62-59, as Caden Hinker's potential game-tying 30-foot heave at the buzzer hit the backboard and rolled off the front of the rim.
"The part I like is how our kids are starting to become a little resilient," MHS head coach Todd Neuendorf said. "We were really disappointed (with the loss at Pierre) Friday night and we're not into moral victories, but as coaches you ask your kids to leave everything on the floor and tonight we did that. (Lincoln) just made a couple more plays."
Mitchell used a stout half-court defense that forced 14 turnovers and kept it within striking distance, even after scoring just two points in the first six minutes of the game. Lincoln was forced to work for a clean look at the hoop all night, but found success in the second half.
The Patriots hauled in 13 offensive rebounds on the night, with much of the scoring damage being done by their trio of big men, Nate Brecht, Tyler Hiatt and Zach Hanson. They combined for 45 of the team's 62 points, with the 6-foot-7 Brecht pumping in a game-high 21.
"When you're strong, you just walk into the kid in front of you and move them out with your legs," Neuendorf said. "I think (Brecht) just moved us out of position. Hink can box out until he's blue in the face, (Brecht) is going to move him all the time."
The size advantage was not enough to make Mitchell disappear, however, as it found a way to answer every run Lincoln make, thanks in part to a pair of upperclassmen.
Neuendorf challenged his elder statesmen at the start of the New Year and senior Kiel Nelson and junior Carter Jacobsen answered the call.
Nelson ripped off 18 points on 7 of 9 shooting, including 4-for-5 from beyond the 3-point arc, while also added nine rebounds and three steals. Jacobsen, meanwhile, had 14 points, six rebounds (five offensive) and three steals as one of the two was a catalyst for each Kernel comeback attempt.
"(Mitchell is) a pretty good team," Lincoln head coach Jeff Halseth said. "Unfortunately they haven't won any games, but I think they're going to win some games. I told my guys, these are the teams to be the most afraid of because they're playing with everything to gain and nothing to lose."
Hiatt and Hanson had 12 points apiece, while Jared Jaros added 10 for Lincoln (8-0).
Hinker also chipped in 16 points for Mitchell (0-9), which is back in action on Friday at Watertown.
Sioux Falls Lincoln 62, Mitchell 59
Lincoln (8-0): Maxwell Burchill 0-2 2-3 2, Grant Russell 1-4 0-0 3, Jared Jaros 4-11 2-2 10, Nolan Ranson 0-0 0-0 0, Kesean Ladd 0-0 0-0 0, Sam Fawcett 1-2 0-0 2, Zach Hanson 5-7 0-0 12, Nate Brecht 9-15 3-3 21, Tyler Hiatt 5-8 2-2 12, Mitch Echacker 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-49 9-10 62.
Mitchell (0-9): Kiel Nelson 7-9 0-2 18, Gavyn Degen 0-2 0-0 0, Derek Factor 1-3 0-0 3, Kaden Soukup 1-4 1-2 3, Caden Hinker 6-13 1-1 16, Ben Helleloid 0-1 5-8 5, Carter Jacobsen 7-11 0-1 14, Zane Alm 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 22-44 7-14 59.
SFL 15 35 49 62
MHS 10 29 40 59
3-pointers: SFL 3-11 (Hanson 2-2, Russell 1-2, Burchill 0-1, Brecht 0-2, Jaros 0-1), MHS 8-21 (Nelson 4-5, Hinker 3-7, Factor 1-3, Jacobsen 0-1, Degen 0-2). Fouled out: Jacobsen. Rebounds: SFL 31 (Brecht 6, Hanson 6), MHS 20 (Nelson 9). Assists: SFL 4, (Four players with one), MHS 10 (Helleloid 5). Steals: SFL 3 (Three players with one), MHS 10 (Nelson 3, Jacobsen 3). Turnovers: SFL 14, MHS 8. Total fouls: SFL 16, MHS 14.
Sub-varsity scores: Sophomores: Lincoln 41, Mitchell 38. JV: Mitchell 50, Lincoln 48.