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Comeback effort denied as No. 2 Sioux Falls Lincoln slips by No. 4 Mitchell boys basketball

The Kernels climbed back from down 12 in the second half and had a late lead, but fell on a game-winning putback layup with 13 seconds to play.

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In this file photo, Mitchell's Dylan Soulek (23) throws a pass from in front of a Sioux Falls Roosevelt defender during a Class AA boys basketball game on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2023, at the Corn Palace.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic
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SIOUX FALLS — In a second-half chock-full of momentum-swinging plays between two ranked Class AA foes, the final one — the game-winner — went against the Mitchell High School boys basketball team.

As a frantic final possession ended with a shot wide of the mark, the fourth-ranked Kernels came up one basket shy of unseating No. 2-ranked Sioux Falls Lincoln, which escaped with a 67-66 win on Saturday afternoon at Lincoln High School.

“We got to the rim but got put in a tough spot,” said Mitchell head coach Ryker Kreutzfeldt. “It’s no one’s fault. We got what we wanted but didn’t quite execute it all the way, and that includes myself.”

The Patriots’ Elijah Olson, who snared an offensive rebound and scored a layup with 13 seconds to play, snatched the home team a victory.

It was nearly an improbable come-from-behind win for the Kernels, who trailed by 12 points with 2:17 remaining in the third quarter but went on a 21-5 spanning the rest of the third and first 3:44 of the fourth to take a four-point lead at 61-57 — Mitchell’s largest edge of the afternoon.

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“The difference was which team was making shots,” Kreutzfeldt said of the stretch.

Even after Lincoln reclaimed a two-point edge late, Mitchell's Dylan Soulek converted a three-point play, making a layup while being fouled and connecting on the ensuing free throw to put Mitchell ahead, 66-65, with 27.3 seconds to play. Though Kreutzfeldt had described the contest as a "free swing" at the No. 2 team in Class AA for the Kernels following a 20-point win over Roosevelt on Tuesday night, it didn't make Saturday's outcome any easier to swallow.

“It feels like a free swing going in, but once the game is over, it hurts like you had to win,” Kreutzfeldt said. “It’s tough, but there are a lot of positives. To be honest, a couple of weeks ago I didn’t think we could play with them defensively.

“We don’t take any moral victories,” he continued, “But I think we proved to everybody that we’re for real and can play with those top teams here tonight.”

The back-and-forth action was constant, as Lincoln’s third-quarter push — which was spurred by an 8-0 run spanning just 57 seconds — was the only time either side led by more than five points. After eight minutes, it was 15-13; at halftime, 31-29; and after three quarters, 52-47 — all Patriot leads.

Soulek and Steele Morgan each had 18 points to pace Mitchell, with Soulek adding six rebounds, two assists and three steals and Morgan grabbing five rebounds. Colton Smith recorded 11 points and four rebounds off the bench. Markus Talley chipped in eight points, while Charlie McCardle had three points and four assists.

For the game, Mitchell shot 23 for 48 (47.9%) from the field to Lincoln's 26 for 60 (43.3%), but the Kernels were 13 of 20 at the free-throw line (Lincoln was 4 for 5) and made seven 3-pointers to the Patriots' 11.

Lincoln (8-1) notched its sixth-straight win, which included a defeat of O’Gorman on Friday night. Elliot Whitney led all scorers with 19 points powered by four 3-pointers, with Jack Hilgenberg adding 14 points. Olson finished with 12 points, and 7-footer J.T. Rock had 11 points with a game-high 13 rebounds.

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“The tough part was they have so many weapons,” Kreutzfeldt said. “... If you’d have told me before the game that (Hilgenberg and Olson) had 26 combined points, I’d have told you that’s going to be a tough game to win, but we were right there and had our chances.”

Mitchell (7-2) is on the road again next weekend for dates with Rapid City Stevens (Jan. 27) and Rapid City Central (Jan. 28).

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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