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Kernel boys fall to Rapid City Stevens on buzzer-beating 3-pointer

Mitchell drops fourth game of past five ahead of Saturday afternoon contest against RC Central

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Mitchell's Gavin Soukup (12) shoots a 3-point basket over a Rapid City Stevens defender during a game on Friday, Feb. 18, 2022 at the Corn Palace.
Matt Gade / Mitchell Republic
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MITCHELL — Rapid City Stevens led for only a matter of seconds in the second half, but as Jaden Haefs’ 3-pointer from the left wing found nothing but the bottom of the net as time expired, it sent the Raiders’ bench into a frenzy.

Haefs’ game-winning triple — his third of the fourth quarter and fifth of the game — lifted Stevens to a 60-59 victory over fourth-ranked Mitchell on Friday night at the Corn Palace, sending the Kernels to their fourth defeat in five games.

“We were straight (man-to-man) and somehow just lost the kid who was making shots all night,” said Mitchell coach Ryker Kreutzfeldt. “I’m not sure what happened because I haven’t seen it again on film, but the kid made a tough shot.”

Stevens was hot early, surging out to a 16-9 lead on the strength of four 3-pointers on the way to a 19-14 advantage after the first quarter.

In the second quarter, Mitchell drew level with the visitors as Dylan Soulek converted a traditional three-point play, and moments later found Charlie McCardle under the basket for a layup that made it 23-all. Seven quick points allowed Stevens to pull away again briefly, but the Kernels would level it again on their final possession of the half on an emphatic one-handed dunk by Caden Hinker.

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Mitchell took the lead immediately after halftime, scoring five points in the opening minute of the third quarter, but the teams traded baskets from there as the score stood at 46-42 heading into the fourth.

“I thought some adjustments we made worked well and then guys made shots in that third quarter to give us the lead,” Kreutzfeldt said. “We just didn’t get the shots we needed to in the fourth quarter.”

A pair of Haefs triples brought the Raiders within 51-50 in the final frame, setting up a back-and-forth exchange to close the contest. A Nate Kindred layup gave Stevens their first lead of the second half at 56-55 with 1:43 to play, but Soulek made a short jump shot 20 seconds later to recapture the lead for Mitchell.

Stevens’ center Ben Goldy tied the contest at 57-all with a free throw before Hinker connected on a pair of his own from the stripe to make it 59-57 Kernels.

Enter Jaden Haefs at the buzzer.

“That’s the first one that we’ve given away,” Kreutzfeldt said. “We had every opportunity to win. Whether it was free throws, shot selection down the stretch and obviously two late turnovers right underneath your own basket. That’s just poor coaching and it’s on me for not having them ready to go.”

Kindred’s 21 points led Stevens (9-8), while Haefs wasn’t far behind at 19 and Charles Christensen chipped in eight. Stevens made 22 of 46 (47.8%) field goal attempts, including 9 of 20 from deep.

Four Kernels — Hinker (15), Soulek (14), McCardle (12) and Morgan (11) — scored in double figures, as Mitchell shot 22 of 44 (50%) from the field. McCardle also grabbed seven rebounds, as Hinker and Morgan pulled down five boards each.

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Mitchell (11-6) returns to the Corn Palace court at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, necessitating a quick mental reset for the Kernels before a clash with Rapid City Central.

“I know what kind of guys we have and I expect them to come extremely prepared and ready to go tomorrow,” Kreutzfeldt said. “We really wanted this one, really needed this one, so our guys are hurting a little bit right now, but we need the one tomorrow, as well.”

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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