Few plays went right for the Mitchell High School boys basketball team against Class AA No. 3 Huron in the first quarter on Saturday.
The Kernels were in catch-up mode before fans could settle in at the Corn Palace and fell behind 14 points through eight minutes in a 53-49 loss.
While Mitchell was never able to find rhythm on offense, it shored up defensively in the final three quarters, playing well enough to win the game. But with a struggling offense that shot 27.1 percent and an early double-digit hole, the Kernels left with a disappointing loss.
“They took us off our spots and made us do stuff we didn’t want to do,” MHS head coach Todd Neuendorf said. “We did what we wanted to do, other than make shots. We shot fadeaway 3s. We had six points in the paint and that’s supposed to be our advantage. If you aren’t getting that advantage, then we have to make some changes.”
Coming off an outing against defending state champion Brandon Valley in which Mitchell shot 51 percent, its offensive struggles started from the opening tip. Huron took a 6-0 lead two minutes into the game, scoring three baskets off Kernel turnovers in the first four possessions.
Mitchell would commit a season-high 17 turnovers in the game. Some came late in the game when the comeback attempt was in desperation mode, but others were the result of shot selection.
The five Kernel starters finished 10 of 44 from the field and 2-for-12 from 3-point range as Huron focused its defense in the post after Mitchell scored 10 of its 17 field goals in the paint in the first meeting on Dec. 14.
Leading scorer Caden Hinker scored seven points on 1 of 12 shooting, marking the first time he was held to single digits since a six-point outing against Watertown on Jan. 22, 2019 -- a span of 16 games.
“We were rushing shots because we weren’t shooting from where we were supposed to,” Neuendorf said. “The ball is supposed to go into the post and it’s supposed to be in the paint and we’re shooting fadeaway 15-footers. In a rock fight like we were in, at halftime we were down 11 and it felt like it should have been 25.”
Mitchell defense regroups from shaky start
The miscues were compounded by a hot start from Huron standout Kobe Busch, who scored 10 of his game-high 19 points in the first quarter, including a pair of long 3-pointers as the Tigers raced out to a 17-3 lead with 2:35 left in the opening frame.
But after Huron made three 3-pointers in the first quarter, Mitchell allowed two the rest of the game and a total of 5-for-23 from beyond the arc. The Kernels also out-rebounded the Tigers 36-30 and had a 12-7 advantage on the offensive glass.
Huron shot 40 percent in the second half, aided by easy layups as Mitchell scrambled to make plays in the fourth quarter. But after the first quarter, both teams scored 32 points in the final three quarters.
“We weren’t great defensively, but part of the reason was we were on retreat most of the night,” Neuendorf said. “You’ve got to make a shot to set your defense. We were missing shots and it was leak-outs and a scramble to find their shooters.”
Schmidt sparks Kernel defensive revival
One of the reasons for the defensive improvement was the play of Jonah Schmidt, who came off the bench in the second quarter when Carter Jacobsen was saddled with three fouls.
The 6-foot-3 sophomore was immediately tasked with guarding the 6-foot-4 Busch and he was prepared, holding him without a point in the second quarter.
Until he was forced to exit due to participation limit after playing in the junior varsity game, Schmidt allowed one made field goal and it came against 6-5 Teegan Evers in a switch in transition.
“(Schmidt) is physical, he’s quick, he’s athletic -- things Kobe is going to get a heavy dose of down the stretch,” Huron head coach Jon Schouten said. “He wasn’t necessarily bigger or stronger, but quicker and more athletic to where (Busch) has to shake him. He battled Kobe’s tail off.”
Mitchell returns to action against Sioux Falls Lincoln at 7 p.m. today in Sioux Falls.