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Kernels look to rebound after poor shooting prevents first win

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Mitchell's Caden Hinker (20) shoots over Rapid City Central's Micah Swallow (3) and Kohl Meisman (0) during a game on Friday in Rapid City. (Kent Bush / Rapid City Journal)

RAPID CITY -- There have not been many instances Mitchell High School has lost a basketball game and felt it was the better team during the last half-decade, but that happened on Saturday.

Coming off a disappointing effort that resulted in a 68-51 loss to Rapid City Central on Friday, the Kernels were determined to get into the win column against Rapid City Stevens the following day.

Mitchell executed its gameplan as desired against the Raiders. The Kernels held Stevens to 28.6 percent shooting, limited big man Mason Steele to nine points and found open looks at the basket.

They just didn’t go in.

Mitchell shot 27.3 percent from the field, including a 5-for-23 performance from the 3-point line and a 5-for-9 outing at the free-throw line, leading to a 41-34 loss to move to 0-3 on the season.

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“We didn’t let one slip away, we just didn’t win it,” MHS head coach Todd Neuendorf said. “We should have beat them by 10 or 12. … We didn’t seal the deal, it was totally on us. Sometimes you say, ‘We didn’t win, they gave it to us.’ We gave them a win, because we didn’t put them away.”

After a poor defensive showing against Rapid City Central in which the Kernels allowed the Cobblers to shoot 55.1 percent for the game, they buttoned up the defense against Stevens for the majority of the game.

Caden Hinker had 12 points and eight rebounds, while Zane Alm had eight points and a career-high 14 rebounds, but the Kernels could not find a consistent source of scoring.

The Raiders employed a 2-3 zone -- as Mitchell expected -- and open shots were created. Stevens shifted its zone to match up with Kernel personnel, but no matter who shot the ball, it would not go in. Eventually, it led to players passing up open shots out of fear of missing.

“In 25 years of coaching, I’ve never had a team shoot like that,” Neuendorf said. “We’ve got to get past that a little bit and get going. We got good looks, they just didn’t go in. Ironically, we got good looks and they wouldn’t go in and they threw one backwards from half-court and it went in. That’s when you know it isn’t your night.”

The loss is the second suffered this season after leading at halftime and if it were not for the half-court heave by Stevens to end the third quarter, Mitchell would have carried a lead into the fourth quarter for the second time this year.

Despite the 0-3 start, Neuendorf has not wavered on his belief that the Kernels can compete with the best teams in the state, it’s just a product of a difficult slate to begin the season and a few unlucky bounces.

“I’m disappointed where we are record-wise, but I’m not disappointed basketball-wise,” Neuendorf said. “Teams are having to gameplan to play us. Stevens played us in a 2-3 zone. In my three years at Mitchell, nobody has had to do anything to beat us. Stevens had to do some stuff to beat us. … I feel good about us playing with anybody.”

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Kernels won’t back down in Hoop City Classic

Mitchell’s schedule does not get any easier, starting with Houston (Tenn.) in the Hoop City Classic on Friday, in what will be its first game of the season at the Corn Palace.

The Mustangs roll into the game with a 10-2 record and boast 6-foot-9 forward Mason Miller, the son of Kernel great, Mike Miller.

Despite the discrepancy in record and a 3-15 all-time record in the Hoop City Classic, Mitchell is looking to stand toe-to-toe with Houston.

“We’re going to try to win it,” Neuendorf said. “I wouldn’t have said that last year. I would have said, ‘Let’s just go play, let’s focus on ourselves.’ But I’ve got a lot of confidence in this basketball team. We have all the right pieces.”

Mitchell faces Houston at 8:30 p.m. on Friday at the Corn Palace and Twin Cities Academy (Minn.) at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday.

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