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Kernel boys' attempt at second-straight fourth-quarter rally comes up short against fourth-ranked Jefferson

Mitchell falls behind by 18 points in the second half, gets as close as seven in fourth quarter in loss.

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Kernel boys against Harrisburg during a game on Tuesday, January 4, 2022 at the Corn Palace.
Matt Gade / Mitchell Republic

MITCHELL — With under six minutes to play on Tuesday night, the Mitchell High School boys basketball team was right where it was three nights earlier — down 12 points on its home floor. But unlike Saturday there would be no furious rally to force overtime, no come-from-behind win.

A cold-shooting first half ultimately doomed the Kernels’ chances of notching a seventh-straight victory, as No. 4 Sioux Falls Jefferson knocked off No. 3 Mitchell, 54-45, at the Corn Palace.

Against Sioux Falls Lincoln on Saturday, Mitchell had a 4-for-25 (16%) first-half shooting effort. Tuesday, it was 6 of 28 (21.4%) in the first half and 18 of 58 (31%) for the game.

“Jefferson had a good game plan. They were doubling the post every time and made it really tough on [Caden] Hinker,” said Mitchell coach Ryker Kreutzfeldt. “When they do that it’s simple, you have to make shots. We just didn’t do that tonight.”

Mitchell's slow offensive start on Tuesday started by going 2-for-12 from the field and trailing 11-6 after the first quarter.

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Dylan Soulek netted all of Mitchell's points in the opening eight minutes on his way to scoring the first eight Kernel points, as no one else saw the ball go through the net until early in the second quarter.

Relief came in the form of a Steele Morgan 3-pointer that tied the game at 11, but it was short-lived, as Mitchell wouldn’t score again for more than four minutes of game time. During that span, the Cavaliers used a 13-0 run to take control of the game.

Mitchell appeared to take back some momentum before the half after a Caden Hinker triple and Soulek dunk in quick succession, but Jefferson answered with a triple of its own to make it 27-16 heading into the break.

“We just weren’t moving well off the ball tonight, so that caused us to not get many good looks or shoot the ball well,” Soulek said.

Jefferson wasn’t done, opening the second half with back-to-back-to-back 3-pointers, as the lead grew to as much as 40-22.

Mitchell responded with a 9-0 run to close the quarter and cut the lead in half, but it wouldn’t get any closer until under three minutes to play when the score briefly stood at 50-43.

The Kernels' 45-point outing was the lowest scoring output of the season, and Tuesday marked the first time this season in which Mitchell lost while allowing fewer than 61 points.

“Our defense was good enough to win us this game, for sure,” Kreutzfeldt said. “... It’s a bitter loss, we don’t like it. It was a miracle we were even in the game with how poorly we played offensively, but we were because we just battled. We just need to learn from this and move on.”

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Morgan led the Kernels with 14 points, 11 of which came after halftime, and 10 rebounds, while Hinker posted a double-double of his own with 10 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and three blocks. Soulek finished with 12 points, four rebounds and three steals.

Jefferson (7-6) was paced by Taylen Ashley’s 18 points, with Griffin Wilde adding 13 points and three assists. Kaden Year had eight points and six rebounds, and Mason Riley grabbed a team-high eight rebounds for the Cavs.

Next up for the Kernels (10-3) is a road date with undefeated, top-ranked Sioux Falls Roosevelt on Friday, Feb. 4.

“Obviously this loss sucks, but we’re looking forward to that matchup to be able to get back on the court and make up for this one,” Soulek said. “I think [Jefferson] caught us on an off night, but I promise we’ll be working our tails off this week in order to get ready for Roosevelt.”

Added Kreutzfeldt: “It’s going to be a fun game in a packed house. It’s an extremely tough place to play. They’re a good team that just keeps getting better as the season goes on, so it’s going to be a great test for our guys.”

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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