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Mitchell boys control Brandon Valley, claim first ESD title since 2012

Kernels led 48-28 after three quarters, finish ESD schedule 7-1

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Mitchell's Caden Hinker (20) shoots over the top of Brandon Valley's Riley Miller during a game on Tuesday night at the Corn Palace.
Matt Gade/Mitchell Republic
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MITCHELL — Tuesday night was exactly the type of performance the Mitchell High School boys basketball team was looking for.

Having struggled early in games over the past month, Mitchell jumped on Brandon Valley early and didn’t let up until the game was well in-hand, notching a 59-46 wire-to-wire victory at the Corn Palace to give the Kernels their first Eastern South Dakota Conference title since 2012.

“The intensity was there, our defense was outstanding. I think that’s the best four quarters we’ve played all year,” said senior guard Gavyn Degen. “Everything is clicking and this is the best time to be playing well.”

With slow starts plaguing the Kernels as of late and leading, in part, to losses in four of the past six games entering Tuesday, Mitchell was determined to come out sharp from the opening tip. The Kernels did just that, charging ahead 15-7 after eight minutes.

The Lynx kept themselves in it early in the second quarter, holding Mitchell scoreless for the period’s first 2 1/2 minutes. But a 10-2 Mitchell run over the next 2 1/2 minutes made it 25-11 on the way to a 31-13 halftime scoreline.

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“Our guys were really focused and defensively we were really good, we were in our spot and everyone was doing their job,” said Mitchell coach Ryker Kreutzfeldt. “The offensively we were moving the basketball side-to-side and getting layups or open 3s. … We were ready to go.”

Brandon Valley came out of the locker room and played the Kernels tight in the third quarter, even holding a 15-13 advantage late in the frame, but a four-point play by Caden Hinker in the final seconds of the quarter pushed Mitchell ahead 48-28 entering the final eight minutes.

Continuing to scrap, the Lynx again forced Mitchell into a scoreless drought to start the fourth quarter — this time spanning more than three minutes — as part of a 7-0 spurt for the visitors. Ultimately, the deficit was too much for Brandon Valley to truly put a scare in the Kernels, as the Lynx only ever clawed their way to within 13 points.

When the current seniors were freshmen, Mitchell endured a 2-19 season. Three seasons later, they're ESD champions and locked in a heated race near the top of Class AA.

“These guys have put in a ton of work and our seniors deserve something like this,” Kreutzfeldt said. “It’s something they’ll never forget and they’ve left their mark.”

Hinker chased a triple-double, finishing with 19 points, 12 rebounds, eight assists, two blocks and one steal in his final regular-season home game as a Kernel.

“It didn’t really hit me until they turned the lights off and went through everyone's name in starting lineups and I was the only one sitting there looking at the Palace one last time,” Hinker said of the emotions of the evening. “… I knew this was a big one with it being Senior Night and an ESD title was at stake. There was a lot to be fired up about tonight and I wanted to do whatever I could to make sure we came out and got the win.”

Soulek tossed in 15 points on five 3-pointers, including four in the first half, and grabbed six rebounds, while Steele Morgan chipped in 10 points and Aiden Myers added five.

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Brandon Valley (8-10, 4-3 ESD) got 13 points and four rebounds from Dylan Langerock along with 12 points and four rebounds from Lukas Morgan.

Mitchell (13-6, 7-1 ESD) faces a stiff test to close the regular season, as the Kernels travel to take on No. 2 O’Gorman in Sioux Falls on Friday night.

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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