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Kernel boys struggle at the line in SoDak 16 loss to Patriots

Mitchell's Caden Hinker shoots over Sioux Falls Lincoln's Nate Brecht during a SoDak 16 game on Saturday in Sioux Falls. (Jeremy Karll / Republic)

SIOUX FALLS -- Despite playing on the road at top-seeded Sioux Falls Lincoln on Saturday, the Mitchell High School boys basketball team didn’t play scared.

The No. 16 seed Kernels (2-19) stayed within striking distance in a SoDak 16 road game, but couldn’t find a way to break through. Poor free throw shooting haunted the Kernels as Lincoln advanced to the Classs AA state tournament with a 68-59 win. The Patriots (18-2) play No. 8 seed Harrisburg on March 14 in Rapid City.

“I think we caused them some problems,” Mitchell coach Todd Neuendorf said. “I think they had to play all 32 minutes, so give our kids some credit. We didn’t come in here and just roll over.”

Neuendorf expected there to be a lot of action from beyond the arc, but he didn’t expect the Kernels’ free throw struggles.

The game would have had a different feel to it if not for 12 missed free throws by the Kernels. They stuck around — tying the game at 31-all early in the second half — though eventually hovered around a 10-point deficit for most of the fourth quarter due to going 13-for-25 from the charity stripe.

“We got to the free-throw line and got what we wanted,” Neuendorf said. “... Basically it came down to when you’re playing No. 1 you have to limit your mistakes, and we left too many points on the free-throw line.”

While Mitchell struggled at the line, Caden Hinker found his stroke from beyond the arc.

He made 6 of 11 from 3 for a team-high 22 points. Carter Jacobsen added 20 points, helping Mitchell shoot 45.2 percent from the field.

“They brought the double from the backside,” Neuendorf said. “If you’re going to double the post, you got to hit outside shots. … It’s about playing inside-out. I thought we did a decent enough job there, but we just left too many points on the free-throw line.”

It was a two-man show for Lincoln, too, with Nate Brecht and Jared Jaros trading blows to the Kernels. When one became quiet, the other picked up the slack.

Kiel Nelson guarded Brecht, but his versatility caused problems. He was able to stretch the floor but also spin past Nelson in the post on multiple occasions, with one resulting in him flexing his muscles as he ran back on defense. He finished with 17 points and six rebounds before fouling out.

Jaros scored 15 of his team-high 19 points in the third, including 10 straight. He helped Lincoln pull away from a 31-26 halftime lead, taking a 54-45 advantage into the fourth.

“When he gets going, it’s just like a faucet,” Neuendorf said, of Jaros.

While the Kernels never completely faded, they struggled to mount a comeback. For every Kernel basket in the fourth, the Patriots responded with a layup or trip to the line.

Derek Factor recorded seven points and seven rebounds for the Kernels. Maxwell Burchill and Zach Hanson added 13 and 11 points, respectively, for the Patriots.

“I think we made huge progress from where we were at the beginning of the year to now,” Neuendorf said. “I’m proud of where we’re at. I’m proud of where we’re going. We’re going to be a team down the road that’s going to be a team people will have to reckon with.”

Sioux Falls Lincoln 68, Mitchell 59

Mitchell (2-19): Kiel Nelson 1-5 0-2 2, Derek Factor 3-4 0-5 7, Kaden Soukup 0-5 3-5 3, Caden Hinker 6-15 4-4 22, Ben Helleloid 2-2 0-0 5, Carter Jacobsen 7-11 6-9 20, Ryley Johansen 0-0 0-0 0, Lucas Moller 0-0 0-0 0. Team totals: 19-42 13-25 59.

Sioux Falls Lincoln (18-2): Hunter Merkley 0-1 0-0 0, Maxwell Burchill 4-7 4-4 13, Grant Russell 1-2 0-2 2, Jared Jaros 6-11 4-6 19, Nolan Ransom 1-2 0-0 2, Kesean Ladd 0-2 1-2 1, Sam Fawcett 0-2 3-4 3, Zach Hanson 3-6 2-4 11, Nate Brecht 7-11 2-4 17. Team totals: 22-44 16-26 68.

M 15 26 45 59

SFL 19 32 54 68

3-pointers: M 8-20 (Hinker 6-11, Helleloid 1-1, Factor 1-2); SFL 8-18 (Jaros 3-7, Brecht 1-1, Burchill 1-3). Rebounds: M 26 (Jacobsen 7, Factor 7); SFL 29 (Hanson 7, Brecht 6). Assists: M 5 (Jacobsen 3); SFL 5 (Russell 3). Steals: M 8 (Jacobsen 3, Nelson 3): SFL 11 (Burchill 3, Hanson 3). Turnovers: M 16; SFL 13. Total fouls: M 17: SFL 22.