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Mitchell boys start fast, finish strong to down Yankton

No. 5 Mitchell bounced back from a home defeat earlier in the week to defeat Yankton at the Corn Palace.

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Mitchell's Macon Larson (11) drives to the basket as Yankton's Mac Ryken defends during a game on Friday at the Corn Palace. Matt Gade / Mitchell Republic
Mitchell Republic file photo

MITCHELL — Powered by 20-plus points in the first and fourth quarters, the Mitchell High School boys basketball team picked up a much-needed win on Friday night.

The Kernels led wire-to-wire, picking up a 69-55 win over Yankton in an Eastern South Dakota Conference contest at the Corn Palace.

GALLERY: Kernel boys basketball team defeat Yankton at the Corn Palace
Having lost to Yankton during the regular season and state tournament last season, the Kernels were searching for a confidence-boosting win against the Bucks. And in what Mitchell coach Ryker Kreutzfeldt described as a “state tournament atmosphere“ with a large, lively Palace crowd, the Kernels got just what they were looking for.

“Being able to get a punch back at them tonight was a really good feeling,” said junior Dylan Soulek. “And Yankton always brings a lot of people, so it’s a lot of fun and a great atmosphere.”

Part of Mitchell's success can be credited to improved shooting from their Tuesday night loss to Harrisburg . In that contest, the Kernels shot 34.5%, but they managed a 50% mark against the Bucks.

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Steele Morgan sparked a quick start for Mitchell, as the junior forward scored 10 points in the opening eight minutes to help the Kernels to a 22-14 advantage. As a team, the Kernels made five 3-point field goals in the first quarter — a welcome sight after a poor shooting performance against Harrisburg on Tuesday.

The Kernels built on their lead by scoring nine of the final 10 points of the half, punctuated by a Charlie McCardle layup off a Caden Hinker assist.

“It was huge for us and a big confidence booster, ” Soulek said of the first-half offensive effort. ”We were up 17 after the first half and only had 12 points in the paint. That tells you something about how we shot the ball confidently.”

Yankton came out of the locker room with a renewed defensive intensity, which helped the Bucks creep back into the contest. A Dylan Prouty three-point play brought the Bucks within 45-37 with 90 seconds to go in the third quarter, but Hinker responded with back-to-back dunks to close the quarter, restoring a double-digit advantage for Mitchell.

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The Bucks continued to extend their comeback bid, cutting the Kernel lead back to single digits early in the fourth quarter and keeping it there for much of the period, timely shot making and free-throw shooting allowed Mitchell to comfortably close out its conference rival.

“It was a big one. We never want to lose two in a row,“ Kreutzfeldt said. “... I think we grew up a little bit tonight.”

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Hinker led all scorers with 22 points, adding 11 rebounds and four assists, as Soulek (15), Morgan (14) and McCardle (10) joined Hinker in double figures. Soulek also recorded four rebounds and four assists, while Morgan and McCardle chipped in seven and five rebounds, respectively.

Yankton (4-2, 2-1 ESD) was led by 15 points from Prouty, with Jaden Kral and Cody Oswald contributing 13 and 11 points, respectively. Oswald also led the Bucks in rebounds with six.

Mitchell (5-2, 4-1 ESD) is on the road Tuesday, Jan. 11, for a girls-boys doubleheader at Huron.

Up-to-date stories, photos and statistics for Mitchell boys basketball's 2021-2022 season

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 ldierks@mitchellrepublic.com and found on Twitter at @LDierksy.
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