Bench comes up big as No. 3 Kernel boys rally to down Aberdeen Central
Colton Smith and Gavin Soukup combined for 30 points, lifting Mitchell to a road ESD win.
ABERDEEN — When shots weren't falling for the starting five, the Mitchell High School boys basketball team looked to the bench for a spark.
And the inside-out duo of Colton Smith and Gavin Soukup delivered.
Powered by 30 combined points between Smith and Soukup, including 21 in the second half, the third-ranked Kernels earned a 60-47 road win over Eastern South Dakota Conference foe Aberdeen Central on Tuesday night.
With Mitchell behind 32-29 in the third quarter, Soukup and Smith combined to score 19 of Mitchell's next 21 points on the way to a 50-40 lead that Aberdeen Central never threatened. After leading by no more than four in the first half, the Kernels' advantage reached as much as 16 points in the fourth quarter.
"Soukup came out in that third quarter and was just a fireball for a little bit there and kept us afloat," said Mitchell head coach Ryker Kreutzfeldt. "And then I thought that was pretty easily Colton's best game."
But what preceded the second-half surge was less desirable.
A quick first few minutes that included small leads of 4-0, 6-2 and 8-5 gave way to a 13-2 Golden Eagle run that spanned the rest of the first quarter and into the second.
It appeared the home team was poised to take a lead into halftime, too, but after falling behind 23-15, the Kernels closed the half on a 9-0 run punctuated by a Dylan Soulek 3-point runner from just inside half court.
Dylan Soulek (@dylansoulek) from just inside half court.— Mitchell Republic Sports (@MDR_Sports) February 8, 2023
Video: Aberdeen Central HS live stream pic.twitter.com/DAQqt3JY27
"We had a lot of early turnovers and that continues to be a problem, and then we just couldn't make a shot," Kreutzfeldt said of the Kernels' early offensive woes.
A 9-3 push by Aberdeen Central to start the third behind two 3s from Spencer Barr and one from Carter Dingman put the Golden Eagles ahead once again at 32-27. But once the Kernels reclaimed the lead at 35-34, they never trailed again.
It was by no measure Mitchell's cleanest performance of the season, but a road conference win is welcomed whenever and however it comes.
"Dropping that game would have really hurt us," Kreutzfeldt admitted. "That being said, (Aberdeen) at home is a lot better than their record. This was a battle. We had our struggles and had to play our butts off defensively the entire time.
"We're finding different ways to win games, and that's a positive," he added.
Smith led all scorers with 18 points to go alongside six rebounds, while all 12 of Soukup's points came on 3-pointers with five rebounds. Charlie McCardle picked up 10 points and six rebounds, as Soulek finished with nine points, seven rebounds and seven assists. Steele Morgan had four points, six rebounds and six assists.
Mitchell was 25 of 46 (54.3%) from the field for the game, including 15 of 22 (68.2%) in the second half. Meanwhile, the Golden Eagles were 17 of 54 (31.5%) and just 8 of 27 (29.6%) after halftime.
For Aberdeen Central (3-9), Dingman posted 13 points, with Barr adding 11 points and five steals.
Kreutzfeldt lauded the defense of Smith and Aiden Myers on Barr, the Golden Eagles' leading scorer who has a 51-point effort to his name this season, as an "unbelievable effort, I just can't say enough."
Mitchell (12-3) has a week-long break before hosting Sioux Falls Washington on Feb. 14.