Defense shines as third-ranked Kernel boys roll past Sturgis, earn 10th win

Mitchell allowed 15 points in the first quarter and just 16 points the rest of the game to defeat the Scoopers.

Mitchell's Colton Smith (20) goes up for a layup in front of a Sturgis defender during a Class AA boys basketball game on Friday, Feb. 3, 2023, at the Corn Palace.
Landon Dierks / Mitchell Republic

MITCHELL — Once the Mitchell High School boys basketball team took control, Friday night’s final outcome was hardly in doubt.

The third-ranked Kernels weathered a hot shooting display from visiting Sturgis early on but wrestled away control late in the first quarter and never looked back, cruising to a 57-31 win over the Scoopers at the Corn Palace.

With the victory, Mitchell (10-3) became the third Class AA program to reach double-digit wins on the season, joining two of the three teams to have bested the Kernels so far in Sioux Falls Jefferson and Sioux Falls Lincoln.

While the offense has owned much of the spotlight throughout the season, it was on the defensive end where Mitchell made its biggest mark against the Scoopers, allowing 15 points in the first quarter but just 16 the rest of the way.

"We didn't have our best stuff ... but we made enough plays," said Mitchell head coach Ryker Kreutzfeldt. "And then defensively, after the first quarter, we did a really good job — four, 10 and two (points in the second, third and fourth quarters) is pretty good."


Four early 3s by the Scoopers pushed the visitors ahead 14-10 — all 14 points scored between Gavin Ligtenberg and Ryan Heinert — but an 11-1 run to close the quarter gave Mitchell a 21-15 edge after eight minutes. By halftime, the advantage was 34-19, as the Kernels limited Sturgis to four points in the second quarter.

"We just cleaned things up, woke up and started playing hard," Kreutzfeldt said of the extended 24-5 stretch. "When you're playing an opponent that maybe isn't the strongest in Class AA, it's easy to come out flat and we did. But luckily we had some guys come in off the bench and play well and give us some energy."

The lead reached 20 points at 43-23 with just over three minutes left in the third quarter on the way to a 51-29 score entering the fourth quarter, where the margin reached its peak at 28 points.

Mitchell's Dylan Soulek (23) shoots a 3-point jump shot over the outstretched arm of a Sturgis defender during a Class AA boys basketball game on Friday, Feb. 3, 2023, at the Corn Palace.
Landon Dierks / Mitchell Republic

Steele Morgan paced all scorers with 16 points to go with a team-high seven rebounds, as Gavin Soukup and Aiden Myers each dropped in 10 points. Myers tacked on four rebounds and a pair of assists, with Dylan Soulek adding eight points, three rebounds and two assists. Markus Talley had four points, six rebounds and two steals along with Charlie McCardle’s five points, four rebounds and two steals.

On the night, Mitchell shot 23 of 47 (48.9%) from the field, including 13 of 23 (56.5%) in the first half, while holding the Scoopers to 12 of 45 (26.7%) for the night.

For Sturgis (4-7), the trio of Dysen Peterson (13 points), Ligtenberg (nine) and Heinert (eight) combined for all but one of the Scoopers’ points. Jake Vliem, who accounted for the one point, grabbed a team-high seven rebounds, while Ligtenberg had three assists and Heinert had four rebounds.

Mitchell returns to the Corn Palace court Saturday afternoon to take on Spearfish, with a scheduled start time of 1:30 p.m.

"Every time we play Spearfish whether it's here or there, it seems like they always come out guns blazing and then it's game on," Kreutzfeldt said. "We're going to have to be ready because in our minds we have to win out to protect the No. 3 seed and tomorrow is obviously a part of that."

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 and found on Twitter at @LDierksy.
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