Following flurry of schedule changes, Mitchell basketball embraces new set of challenges
MHS has played just once to date, with three games postponed until later in the season due to recent winter weather.
MITCHELL — A painfully long wait for more game action is nearing its end for the Mitchell High School basketball programs.
Though not by design, when the MHS girls and boys teams take the Corn Palace court on Wednesday afternoon at the Hoop City Classic, it'll snap a nearly three-week layoff for both teams.
Games set for Dec. 13, 16 and 17 were all wiped away due to winter weather, which also shut down plans to play one of the postponed contests on Dec. 22. It's made for a bizarre start to the season filled with anticipation for both programs, both of which played (and won) their lone game to date on Dec. 9 in Huron.
"We've only had a few postponements since I've been coaching; never anything like this," said boys head coach Ryker Kreutzfeldt, now in his sixth season on the MHS coaching staff.
An extended runway to get the season off the ground is not all bad, even with several practices being nixed as a result of school cancellations.
The extra time has allowed the Kernels to do situational work, simulating late-game scenarios they may encounter throughout the season, and have plenty of live-action elements in practice to keep the process as fresh as possible.
"There are a lot of things to do at the beginning of the year, and this is giving us the time to do it, which is great," Kreutzfeldt said. "The biggest thing is just keeping them motivated. When you're beating up on each other so much, you kind of get sick of it. At this point, we just need to play."
But in establishing a rhythm for a season that — if the Kernels have their way — will extend well into March, going a full month with just 32 minutes of game time to draw from presents its challenges.
For the MHS boys, Wednesday will mark one month to the day since the first official practice of the season, and the girls have it slightly worse, having started a week earlier.
"It's tough. When you don't have school, you can't do anything," Kreutzfeldt said. "You just try to tell guys to be watching film and stay ready."
The bulk of Mitchell's regular-season schedule always occupied January and February, and thanks to the bevy of postponements, the calendar is now chock-full of game dates.
On the girls side, the Kernels play five games in 10 days between Jan. 31 and Feb. 9, the latter date being chosen as the make up date against Watertown. At this time, it's not clear when postponed games against Rapid City Stevens and Rapid City Central will be made up, but in any case, those will add to a busy slate.
The Mitchell boys, which already had the Stevens and Central contests rescheduled, are slated to play five games in nine days between Jan. 27 and Feb. 4, including a pair of Friday night to Saturday afternoon back-to-backs. With the boys' Watertown game bumped back to mid-February, the Kernels end the season playing five games in 11 days. Pending any more chaos, the Kernels will also face three separate one-day turnarounds (including the Hoop City Classic) and seven two-day gaps between contests.
As it stands, the longest gap between boys games is six days, starting Feb. 8 and ending Feb. 13, while the girls have a break of equal length between Dec. 31 and Jan. 5.
Even so, Kreutzfeldt anticipates the boys' largest challenge in navigating such a schedule is mental, not physical, due at least in part to exceptional roster depth.
"The fatigue doesn't worry me, it's more so the mental preparation," Kreutzfeldt explained. "When you only have one day in between games, that's a lot you have to do in that one day to fix mistakes from the day before and work the game plan for whoever we're playing next."
As both Kernel teams are set to face off against Wyoming teams at this week’s Hoop City Classic, neither will see competition against an in-state opponent until after the New Year, with the boys traveling to Harrisburg on Jan. 3 and the girls heading to Yankton on Jan. 6.