Kernel basketball notebook: Offense centers around Caden Hinker post touches

Mitchell basketball heads into the new year after both teams win second Hoop City Classic contests

Mitchell Kernel boys against Campbell County (Wyo.) during a game on Wednesday in the Hoop City Classic at the Corn Palace. Matt Gade / Mitchell Republic
Matt Gade

MITCHELL — Leading into a January schedule featuring seven games, the Mitchell High School boys basketball team knows what it needs to do to be most successful on offense.

Get the ball to Caden Hinker in the post.

It was little secret coming into the season that Hinker, a 2020-21 first-team all-state honoree, was going to be the key to Mitchell's offensive success, and after five games the plan to maximize Hinker’s talents while simultaneously elevating everyone else on the floor is coming into focus.

“We learned we need to feed Hinker in the post and get movements off of that because that’s where he excels,” said Mitchell coach Ryker Kreutzfeldt. “… Everything we do revolves around him having the basketball in the post.”

This is hardly a new development, as entering the ball to Hinker with his back to the basket has been part of Mitchell’s offensive approach in each game so far this season. However, the Kernels’ first loss — a 61-53 final against Thunder Basin (Wyo.) in the Hoop City Classic on Dec. 28 — underscored its importance. Physical defense and pressure from Thunder Basin flustered Mitchell's motion and ball movement and forced six of Hinker’s 13 field goal attempts to come from behind the 3-point line.


According to Kreutzfeldt, the Kernels’ only offensive adjustment ahead of taking on Campbell County (Wyo.) on Dec. 29 was putting Hinker in the post with even greater frequency and committing to getting him touches when he was there. The result was an 84-79 victory in what Kreutzfeldt called a “great improvement” from the night prior.

Campbell County win shows ‘best basketball is yet to come’

Mitchell’s win over Campbell County — the program’s first win in the Hoop City/Mike Miller Classic since 2012 and third-ever over an out-of-state team — served as an encouraging springboard into 2022.

“We thought we let one slip away,” Hinker said of the eight-point loss to Thunder Basin the night before. “I thought we played really well (against Campbell County) as a team and it was a good bounce back all around. They shot crazy well, but we responded and fought through it.”

Mitchell Kernel boys against Campbell County (Wyo.) during a game on Wednesday in the Hoop City Classic at the Corn Palace. Matt Gade / Mitchell Republic
Matt Gade

Despite the Camels sinking 16 of 26 3-point field goals, an event record, the Kernels found a way to win. Compared to the night before, Mitchell’s ball movement and half court motion was much improved, leading to several open shots near the basket and the most points by a Kernel boys team since Dec. 19, 2014.

“The kids see that when we’re playing together, playing as a team, we’re going to be tough to guard,” Kreutzfeldt said. “We scored the most points in seven years tonight, so I’m really impressed with our guys. We’re going to find new ways to score and, most importantly, better ways to stop people.”

Added Hinker: “It’s good going into the new year 4-1, and I feel if we keep expanding off of that, our best basketball is yet to come.”


Mitchell opens 2022 with a pair of home contests, hosting Harrisburg on Jan. 4 followed by Yankton on Jan. 7.

Caden Hinker climbs to No. 2 on MHS career scoring list

Caden Hinker added another milestone to his already distinguished Kernel basketball career, becoming just the second Mitchell boys basketball player to reach 1,200 career points.

Hinker moved from fifth to third all-time on the road against Brookings on Dec. 17, passing the marks of Bart Friedrick (1,149 points) and Scott Morgan (1,151).

Mitchell Kernel boys against Campbell County (Wyo.) during a game on Wednesday in the Hoop City Classic at the Corn Palace. Matt Gade / Mitchell Republic
Matt Gade

Twelve days and two games later, in Mitchell’s second contest of the Hoop City Classic against Campbell County, Hinker’s season-high 28 points not only boosted the Kernels to a win, but pushed the Augustana commit past Tyson Theeler’s career mark of 1,192 points and into second-place in school history.

With 1,202 points and counting, Hinker now stands behind only Mike Miller and his 1,724 points in the MHS boys record books.

Composure leads Kernel girls to first win

The Mitchell High School girls basketball team exhibited an exceptional calmness to earn its first victory of the campaign in a Hoop City Classic contest against Campbell County (Wyo.).


Having led for most of the contest, the Kernels fell behind late, but relied on steady free throw shooting to stay in the game, eventually taking back the lead on a pair of free throws by eighth-grader Addie Siemsen with 11 seconds left to win 50-49.

“It was about keeping composure and giving ourselves a chance,” said Mitchell coach Cole Knippling. “… What we did do a good job of was knocking down free throws. We were strong with the ball, got fouled and knocked them down.”

Mitchell Kernel girls against Campbell County (Wyo.) during a game on Wednesday in the Hoop City Classic at the Corn Palace. Matt Gade / Mitchell Republic
Matt Gade

Mitchell scored exactly half of its 50 points from the free throw line, and Knippling also highlighted rebounding and attacking the basket as areas he felt the Kernels excelled in against Campbell County and will look to build on as the season progresses.

After showing improvement but coming up short in the first four contests of the season, finding a way to win their first game of the season in such a fashion was important to boost the Kernels’ confidence early in the season.

“They needed to feel this,” Knippling said. “To have a full Corn Palace — it was loud, it was crazy — they’ll remember that win forever.”

Sawyer Stoebner continues to shine

Sawyer Stoebner has established herself as the Kernels’ top offensive threat early in her sophomore season.


Stoebner has reached double figures in points in all five games, while increasing her scoring output with each contest and leading Mitchell in scoring four times.

Mitchell Kernel girls against Campbell County (Wyo.) during a game on Wednesday in the Hoop City Classic at the Corn Palace. Matt Gade / Mitchell Republic
Matt Gade

In her most recent outing against Campbell County, Stoebner scored 21 first-half points on her way to a career-high 28 points, adding 10 rebounds and nine steals to finish just shy of a triple-double.

“This is what she’s had the potential to do and you kind of felt this was coming,” Knippling said. “She’s such a phenomenal athlete and really starting to come into her own. She’s not forcing it, finishing at the rim, strong around the basket and hitting her free throws, and I think the thing that’s understated is, defensively, she’s all over the place.”

Dierks covers prep and collegiate athletics across the Mitchell Republic's coverage region area, focusing on Mitchell High School football and boys basketball and area high school football, volleyball and basketball, as well as Dakota Wesleyan women's basketball. He was also the lead on the Mitchell Republic Gridiron Spotlight, producing video and providing live play-by-play for the traveling weekly prep football broadcast during its first season in the fall of 2021. Dierks is a Mitchell native who graduated from South Dakota State University with his bachelor's degree in journalism in May 2020. He joined the Mitchell Republic sports staff in August 2021. He can be reached at and found on Twitter at @LDierksy.
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