Second half carries Sioux Falls Lincoln past Mitchell, Kernels finish sixth in Class AA
Mitchell closes season with 15-9 record, second-straight state tourney appearance
SIOUX FALLS — Just as it had in the afternoon prior’s consolation semifinal contest against Yankton, the Mitchell High School boys basketball team came out swinging Saturday afternoon. But in the second half of the third game in three days, the physical toll of a grueling triple-overtime bout from the first day finally caught up to the Kernels.
Behind a second half in which seventh-seeded Sioux Falls Lincoln put up 40 points to Mitchell’s 16, the Patriots pulled away for a 69-52 victory in the Class AA consolation championship Saturday inside the Premier Center.
“We just finally ran out of gas,” said Mitchell coach Ryker Kreutzfeldt. “These guys battled the whole first half, but just didn’t have anything left in the tank, to be honest. The effort was there, we just didn’t quite have enough juice left. These guys should be proud of the tournament they had, and I’m an extremely proud coach right now.”
Caden Hinker and Steele Morgan were firing early for Mitchell, as the pair combined to go on a 12-0 run in the early stages that put the Kernels up 14-5 on the way to a 19-11 lead after eight minutes.
Lincoln kept pace in the second quarter, with the Patriots even making a surge of their own to cut the lead to 32-29 on a 3-pointer by Saif Shah. But the Kernels would post the final two buckets of the half, as a pair of Charlie McCardle layups — the second of which swirled around the rim and down as time expired — gave Mitchell a seven-point cushion at the midway point.
The teams that emerged from the locker room after the intermission looked much different than the ones that went in moments prior.
“We came out with good energy in the first half, then coming out in the second half it was almost like a switch was flipped and you could tell we were dogged,” Hinker said. “... You kind of sat down and a little fatigue started to kick in. I’m not going to blame it on that, but at the same time you think about what could have been.”
A 9-0 run to start the third quarter fired the Patriots into the lead for the first time since the opening minutes, and it didn’t stop there, as a triple by Elliot Whitney put Lincoln up 49-40. Five straight points by Hinker helped bring Mitchell back within 51-45 before the end of the period, but that’s as close as the Kernels would come in the late stages.
Another run, this time 10-0, to start the fourth quarter effectively put the game out of reach, as the Kernels struggled to find offense running on tired legs, several of which played nearly 100 minutes across three days.
Hinker closed a great Kernel career with 22 points, nine rebounds, five assists and three blocks, leading Mitchell in all four categories. McCardle scored 11 points, finishing with three double-digit scoring efforts in the state tournament, while Morgan added 10 points, three rebounds and three assists. Dylan Soulek chipped in seven points, three rebounds and two blocks, as Gavyn Degen's two points rounded out the Kernels' scoring.
Mitchell was also defeated on the glass for the first time in the three-day tournament, falling 39 to 28 in the category and allowing 18 Patriot offensive rebounds.
“That was our worry coming in, was can we rebound with them and do we have the juice to rebound with them,” Kreutzfeldt said. “They were more physical, quicker to the 50/50 balls and just had a lot more juice than us in that second half.”
For Lincoln (14-10), which made 11 3-pointers (seven in the second half), Elliot Whitney led the way with 24 points (15 after halftime), seven rebounds, four assists and three steals. Khalil Cisse posted 10 points, while Caleb Hiatt added eight points and nine rebounds. Gage Gohl and seven-footer J.T. Rock and had seven points apiece, with Gohl also notching seven rebounds, five assists and five steals.
It wasn’t the ending the program had hoped to have for their 2021-22 season, but it was a successful season nonetheless. The Kernels’ sixth-place finish represented an improvement over a seventh from a season ago, as Mitchell posted a 15-9 record after their second-straight appearance among the final eight teams in Class AA.
“At the end of the day, we won’t remember this game,” said senior Gavyn Degen. “We’ll be thinking about how successful we were this season.”
“We got sixth, but we had to work our butts off to get sixth,” Kreutzfeldt added. “And we’re two points away from playing in a Friday night semifinal. I can’t say enough about how proud I am of what kind of guys we have and how they handle themselves. I love these guys.”