Mitchell High School needed to make a statement against Brandon Valley on Tuesday.
Many fans sought a sign of validation that the Kernels’ 7-1 record was not a mirage and they were ready to be contenders in Class AA boys basketball. For Mitchell, though, it was about proving Friday’s loss to Sioux Falls Christian was an aberration.
Regardless, anyone wearing black and gold left the Corn Palace happy.
The fifth-ranked Kernels started the second quarter on a 10-1 run and the remainder of their 70-47 win was never close. Even when the Lynx appeared on the cusp of making a run, Mitchell fired back with an offense that found little resistance.
“The guys know what people say and they want to show people, too,” MHS head coach Todd Neuendorf said. “They were as embarrassed as anybody about Friday night and they came out and played like the team we knew they were. That’s why we were so upset about Friday night, because that’s not the team we knew they were. They came and brought it tonight.”
Zane Alm and Caden Hinker led Mitchell in scoring for the eighth time in nine games and have accounted for 56.6% of the teams points, but the ball skipped around to teammates freely, as nine players entered the scoring column and four players scored in double figures.
Hinker and Alm had seven and five assists, respectively, while scoring or assisting on 23 of the team’s 26 made field goals. They managed to involve teammates in the offense early as Hinker found Dylan Soulek for an easy backdoor layup in the first quarter, Alm hit Ben Helleloid for layup in the second quarter and Gavyn Degen — who had 10 points off the bench — stepped into a 3-pointer to end a brief Brandon Valley spurt at the end of the first half.
“Mitchell’s bigs pass the ball really well out of the post, out of the mid-post,” Brandon Valley head coach Brent Deckert said. “We tried to prepare for it, but like anything else, until you play them you don’t get a good test of how well they pass and how well they cut. Mitchell played really well and we played really bad. … I’ve seen Mitchell play well in the past, but they played great.”
Soulek was the biggest beneficiary of the free-flowing offense as he scored in double-digits for the second consecutive game. The 6-foot sophomore scored a career-high 13 points and has tallied 33 points in the last three games after totaling 20 in his first six, while missing one game due to injury.
At times, Soulek was also asked to guard Brandon Valley’s leading scorer Jackson Hilton and helped hold him to a 3-for-14 shooting performance. His night peaked by faking a handoff to Hinker on an inbounds play, fooling the defense and slapping the backboard on a wide-open layup.
Soulek is the lone new start for the Kernels this season, stepping into the role that was vacated due to Carter Jacobsen’s graduation. Jacobsen averaged 14.1 points per game last season, primarily on slashing plays to the rim and Soulek has gone 13 of 23 in the paint during the last three games.
“These last three games I’ve felt so much more comfortable,” Soulek said. “I’m kind of adjusting to the varsity level because I didn’t play very much last year. But I feel like I’m doing a pretty good job of stepping into (Jacobsen’s) shoes.”
Mitchell hosts Watertown at 7:30 p.m. on Friday as part of a boys-girls doubleheader at the Corn Palace.