Mitchell finally lands on the winning end of a buzzer-beating shot
Mitchell avoiding giving up a 16-point lead to Rapid City Stevens to improve to 4-0.
“Here we go again.”
That is what many on the Mitchell High School bench were thinking as Kaden Lemer crossed the half-court stripe with less than 10 seconds to play, with the Kernels clinging to a 50-49 lead Saturday. Rapid City Stevens was looking to overcome a 16-point second-half deficit with a buzzer-beating shot, a feeling all too familiar for many in the Corn Palace.
Mitchell lost three games at the horn last year, along with a one-handed half-court heave by the Raiders to beat the shot clock to ice another loss. This time, however, Jonah Schmidt tipped a shot from the corner by Charles Christensen to preserve the win .
The Kernels improved to 4-0 for the first time in six seasons, and although they have no interest in habitually surrendering comebacks, Neuendorf admitted it was a welcome change to be on the winning side of a last-second shot.
“I’m convinced that if Jonah doesn’t tip that ball, it’s probably going in,” MHS head coach Todd Neuendorf said. “(Christensen) was on fire in the fourth quarter. … We had some mistakes that led to the mistakes that were obvious for the people watching that we have to clean up. But at the end of the day, it’s good to finally win one of those.”
Mitchell was able to survive the Stevens rally despite leading scorer Caden Hinker being held to eight points, marking the fifth time he has been held to single digits in the last 45 games. Hinker had posted 23 points, 13 rebounds and six assists in a 59-47 win against Rapid City Central Friday , but took just four shots against Stevens.
The previous four times Hinker was held to double-digits, Mitchell went 0-4 and lost by an average of 17.5 points per game, while averaging 41.8 points as a team. But this time Zane Alm was able to pick up the slack with a career-high 27 points against Stevens.
The 6-foot-10 senior scored 21 points in the first three quarters, picking up where he left off by scoring 11 of his 17 points against Central in the second half.
Alm showed off an expanded offensive arsenal, hitting jump hooks, swooping layups and his first career 3-pointer. After going 3-for-10 in the first half against Central, Alm went 16 of 23 in the last six quarters against the Rapid City Schools and he believes it started with a thunderous put-back dunk in transition against the Cobblers.
“That really gets me going,” Alm said. “It makes me think about going to the goal physical and to try to dunk every time. That’s what it really does. It gets me to think to play more physical when I dunk it.”
While the offense continued to improve, the Kernel defense remained staunch over the weekend, save for a final quarter against Stevens and Neuendorf shouldered the blame.
Stevens shot 13 of 28 in the second half, frequently pulling up for jump shots when Mitchell pushed through ball screens. Scouting reports and 30.4% shooting in the first half led to the decision, but Neuendorf regretted not making a switch when the Raiders began to knock down shots.
Despite the rough fourth quarter, the Kernels have held all four opponents to less than 40% shooting this season. Even as Central’s Micah Swallow went for 31 points and 15 rebounds, Mitchell held the rest of the Cobblers to 24.1% shooting.
“We defended the ball screen the way we did the night before (against Central) because their guards wanted to turn the corner so much and we didn’t think they’d shoot as well as they shot it,” Neuendorf said. “Instead of pushing the ball screen, we should have flagged the ball screen and that would have ended it. That’s on me, I’m the coach.”
Mitchell returns to action against Campbell County (Wyo.) at 7 p.m. on Dec. 29 at the Corn Palace.