Kernels stunned by Watertown in OT on buzzer-beating heave

Watertown's Brandon Smith (right) tips the ball away from Mitchell's Zane Alm (40) during the second quarter of an Eastern South Dakota Conference game on Friday at the Corn Palace. (Nick Sabato / Republic)

Mitchell High School thought the game was won, but Evan Falconer had one last arrow in his quiver.

Trailing by one point with 2.2 seconds left, Caden Hinker sank a pair of free throws to put the Kernels up 64-63. Without a timeout, Watertown’s only hope was a desperation heave and those prayers were answered.

Falconer took the inbound pass, launched a bomb on the run from 3/4-court that bank off the backboard and fell through the bottom of the net to stun the Corn Palace crowd and give the Arrows a 66-64 overtime win on Friday.

“It’s dumb luck,” MHS head coach Todd Neuendorf said. “We got beat on a 3/4-court tonight and I don’t have a play to stop that. I feel for our kids. They play their butts off and it doesn’t seem like it’s ever good enough. We’re going to keep working.”


Falconer’s basket was the game-winning play, but it was not the first buzzer-beater of the game. Mitchell (1-8) took a 32-23 halftime lead behind eight first-half points from Lucas Moller, but it was quickly erased behind a 12-0 run by Watertown (4-5) in the third quarter.

A back and forth final frame saw the Arrows take the lead on two free throws by Kale Stevenson with 54.2 seconds to play. Eventually, the Kernels trailed by two with 11 seconds to play when Hinker passed to Zane Alm at the elbow. With the clock ticking, Alm took one dribble and hit a floater over defender Brandon Smith at the buzzer for his lone basket of the second half.

“It was coming back to Hinker and they jammed up the screen,” Neuendorf said. “Zane just made a basketball play. The set was for Hinker, the kids knew what we were running and Zane saw it wasn’t going to be there. Give him a lot of credit for making that play.”

Both teams refused to blink down the stretch, trading baskets in fourth quarter and overtime. Carter Jacobsen gave Mitchell the lead on a driving layup with 25 seconds to play and Falconer helped Watertown regain the advantage with a layup of his own with 11.9 seconds left.

Coming out of a timeout, the Kernels were determined to give the ball to Hinker for the final shot, particularly after he and Jacobsen combined to score 28 of the team’s 32 points after halftime.


Hinker was fouled driving to the basket and calmly stepped to the free-throw line, setting up Falconer’s shot that resulted in Mitchell’s second buzzer-beating loss of the season and second overtime loss.

“I knew there was only 2 seconds, so I only had a dribble or two and put up as good of a shot as I could,” Falconer said. “I knew it had a good chance -- I actually thought it was a little long. It’s an unbelievable feeling -- there’s nothing like it in the world.”

Falconer finished with 19 points, while Dawson Schmidt had 21 points, seven rebounds, six assists and three steals for Watertown.

Jacobsen scored a game-high 22 points to go along with seven rebounds and four assists. Hinker had 19 points and eight rebounds and Alm had 10 points and eight rebounds for the Kernels.

Mitchell hosts Brookings at 7 p.m. on Jan. 31 at the Corn Palace.

Watertown 66, Mitchell 64

Watertown (4-5): Jaxon Engstrom 1-1 0-0 3, Dawson Schmidt 8-18 4-7 21, Evan Falconer 8-14 0-0 19, Brandon Smith 3-8 3-4 9, Wyatt Berner 1-3 0-0 3, Kale Stevenson 3-6 2-2 10, Mason Morris 0-3 1-2 1. Totals 24-53 10-15 66.


Mitchell (1-8): Gavyn Degen 0-2 0-0 0, Macon Larson 0-1 0-0 0, Lucas Moller 2-2 2-2 8, Caden Hinker 5-13 6-8 19, Ben Helleloid 2-8 0-0 5, Carter Jacobsen 10-16 2-3 22, Jonah Schmidt 0-0 0-0 0, Zane Alm 4-9 2-2 10. Totals 23-51 12-15 64.

WHS 13 23 43 55 66

MHS 18 32 44 55 64

3-point field goals: WHS 8-24 (Falconer 3-7, Stevenson 2-5, Engstrom 1-1, Berner 1-3, Schmidt 1-5, Morris 0-1, Smith 0-2), MHS 6-15 (Hinker 3-7, Moller 2-2, Helleloid 1-4, Degen 0-2). Fouled out: Berner. Rebounds: WHS 26 (Schmidt 7), MHS 41 (Alm 8, Hinker 8). Assists: WHS 6 (Schmidt 6), MHS 13 (Jacobsen 4). Steals: WHS 6 (Schmidt 3), MHS 3 (Three players with 1). Blocked shots: WHS 0, MHS 2 (Hinker 1, Alm 1). Turnovers: WHS 8, MHS 12. Total fouls: WHS 15, MHS 11.

Sub-varsity scores: Freshmen: Mitchell ‘A’ 71, Watertown 37; Mitchell ‘B’ 59, Watertown 32.

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