Mitchell High School made sure its night could not be spoiled by a Watertown 75-foot buzzer-beater on Friday.
The Arrows stunned the Kernels 66-64 in overtime, thanks to a 3/4-court buzzer-beater by Evan Falconer a season ago, but this time around Mitchell was too big, too strong and too efficient.
The Kernels did not commit a turnover in the first half and offset eight second-half turnovers by shooting 68.4% from the field, as all five starters scored at least nine points in a 68-58 win over Watertown.
“When I woke up this morning, the first thing that went through my head was that shot,” said MHS head coach Todd Neuendorf, who graduated from Watertown in 1990. “I don’t know if that shot will leave. Any time a kid throws up a shot from half-court, 3/4-court, I think it’s going in. That’s where I’m at now. It’s good to redeem ourselves and have our kids take care of their business like they're supposed to.”
Mitchell (9-1) jumped out to an early lead, but back-to-back 3-pointers by Kale Stevenson tied the game 19-19 and Neuendorf reset the offense to pound the ball into the post where his team had a significant size advantage. The tallest Arrow was 6-foot-3 and the Kernels began to capitalize despite full-court pressure and constant double-teams in the post.
Zane Alm (6-10) and Caden Hinker (6-6) combined for 19 points in the first half and opportunities began to open up for teammates throughout the game. Gavyn Degen had a driving layup in the second quarter, while Lucas Moller connected on a 3-pointer from the corner as time expired at halftime.
“When they pack the paint it opens up the outside, but that’s after Hinker and Zane get some touches inside and get some easy buckets,” MHS guard Ben Helleloid said. “I think that’s part of why we shot such a high percentage. Those two keep getting layups at the rim and it’s hard for people to defend.”
The Arrows trimmed the lead to six in the third quarter, but Mitchell was able to push the lead when the offense ran through Hinker and Alm in the post. Moller would again connect on a 3-pointer to halt a mini spurt by Watertown in the third quarter, while Dylan Soulek scored eight of his 13 points in the second half. Helleloid also connected on a 3-pointer to grab a 12-point lead late in the fourth quarter to seal the win, as the Kernels went 7 of 13 from beyond the arc.
“This is the third game we’ve had a half where we’ve given up 65%,” Watertown head coach Zach Wevik said. “Some of that is on offensive rebound put-backs, some of it’s breakdowns defensively, where we’re giving up an easy basket or a high-percentage look. It’s hard to continue to push when you’re giving up stuff on the offensive end and not getting stops.”
While Watertown (2-7) struggled to match Mitchell’s size, the Arrows had an advantage off the dribble. They made four 3-pointers in the first half, so Neuendorf altered the defense on the perimeter.
Watertown went 3 of 10 from beyond the arc in the second half, but went 11 of 13 from the free-throw line to stay close. Dawson Schmidt scored eight of his 19 points at the foul line, while Drew Norberg also added 19 points for the Arrows.
“I got tired of watching them shoot 3s,” Neuendorf said. “So at halftime I moved them up and I said, ‘If they go by you, you’ve got Zane there.’ That might have been on me, but I didn’t want anymore 3s.”
Alm scored a team-high 18 points to go along with 12 rebounds and two blocks, while Hinker had 16 points, nine assists, seven rebounds and three blocks. Helleloid and Moller had nine points apiece in the win.
Mitchell travels to Brookings at 7 p.m. Thursday.
Mitchell 68, Watertown 58
Watertown (2-7): Jaxon Engstrom 2-4 0-0 6, Cole Holden 1-2 0-0 2, Dawson Schmidt 5-17 8-10 19, Drew Norberg 6-16 5-7 19, Kale Stevenson 4-9 2-2 12, Reese Stark 0-0 0-0 0, Kohen Kranz 0-2 0-0 0, Devon Lewis 0-0 0-0 0, Mack Johnson 0-1 0-0 0, Evan Hamre 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 18-51 15-19 58.
Mitchell (9-1): Caden Hinker 6-15 2-3 16, Zane Alm 5-10 8-10 18, Lucas Moller 3-4 0-0 9, Ben Helleloid 4-7 0-0 9, Dylan Soulek 6-7 0-0 13, Jonah Schmidt 0-0 1-2 1, Gavyn Degen 1-2 0-0 2, Steele Morgan 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-45 11-15 68.
WHS 10 26 43 58
MHS 16 35 52 68
3-pointers: WHS 7-20 (Engstrom 2-3, Norberg 2-5, Stevenson 2-5, Schmidt 1-5, Kranz 0-2); MHS 7-13 (Moller 3-4, Hinker 2-7, Helleloid 1-1, Soulek 1-1). Rebounds: WHS 29 (Schmidt 8); MHS 30 (Alm 12). Assists: WHS 8 (Three players with 2); MHS 16 (Hinker 9). Steals: WHS 5 (Schmidt 3); MHS 3 (Soulek 2). Blocks: WHS 0, MHS 5 (Hinker 3). Fouls: WHS 15, MHS 15. Turnovers: WHS 7, MHS 8.
Sub-varsity scores: JV: Mitchell 53, Watertown 45: Jackson Childs scored 21 points on 8 of 11 shooting. Freshmen: Watertown 52, Mitchell 42: Easton Neuendorf scored 22 points.