Third-ranked Mitchell leads wire-to-wire, downs Pierre in ESD battle
With the win, Mitchell improved to 5-1 in conference play and controls its destiny for a second-straight outright ESD title.
MITCHELL — In search of a win to cleanse the palate following a Tuesday defeat, the Mitchell High School boys basketball team delivered precisely the type of performance it needed on Thursday night.
Mitchell jumped out early and led wire-to-wire, fending off a tough challenge from a surging Pierre squad to notch a 62-55 Eastern South Dakota Conference win at the Corn Palace.
“We felt like our backs were against a wall,” said Mitchell head coach Ryker Kreutzfeldt. “We would’ve been in a tough spot had we lost this game in terms of seed points and morale. … It was a gritty win.”
With the win, Mitchell remained in control of its path to an outright ESD championship. The Kernels now need road wins over Watertown and Brandon Valley in its next two contests to claim sole possession conference crown for the second-straight season.
After a back-and-forth start, Mitchell took early control with a 10-0 run that pushed the Kernels ahead 21-9 at the end of the first quarter. It was a far cry from the three points Mitchell managed in the first eight minutes on Tuesday against Sioux Falls Washington and set the tone for what followed.
“We played with energy right away, which is something we haven’t always had, and that was a big part of the game,” Kreutzfeldt said. “... Us getting humbled on Tuesday is probably why. We learned our lesson, came out and played hard and played desperate, which was a good thing.”
Pierre pulled back within four points late in the second quarter, but Mitchell held on to a 29-21 lead heading into the locker room.
A 6-0 push by the Governors in the opening 75 seconds of the second half cut the deficit down to one possession, but after trading baskets for the remainder of the third quarter, Mitchell carried a 48-42 edge into the fourth.
In the final frame, all-state guard Lincoln Kienholz took over to score nine of the Govs’ 13 points and brought them within one basket twice, but was unable to lift Pierre over the top.
“I thought Dylan (Soulek) did a pretty good job on him, but that’s a Division I four-star athlete, it is what it is,” Kreutzfeldt said. “The big thing was he had to work for everything; everything was difficult.”
Kreutzfeldt gave credit to the Corn Palace crowd for giving his team a welcome boost throughout, but particularly down the stretch.
“I have to give a lot of credit to the crowd. This was one of the best crowds we’ve had in six years in terms of energy and number of people, and the student section was full,” Kreutzfeldt said. “They were a big part of the game and I thought our guys fed off that. Mitchell showed up for the Kernels tonight.”
Markus Talley paced Mitchell with 16 points, including eight in the fourth quarter, and also had five rebounds and two steals. Steele Morgan added 14 points, five rebounds and two steals, while Charlie McCardle 10 points and nine rebounds and Dylan Soulek chipped in 11 points and three assists.
“A lot of guys did a lot of good things tonight, but Markus was the player of the game,” Kreutzfeldt said. “He was the X-factor. … He hit some big shots, was getting to the rim. This is the Markus Talley we know. If we can unlock this every night, it’s going to be a huge weapon for us.”
Lincoln Kienholz led all scorers with 25 points along with three assists and three steals. Benjamin Heisler scored 11 points, while Jackson Edman added 10 points, seven rebounds and three assists for Pierre (11-7).
Bouncing back from a 47-42 home loss to Sioux Falls Washington earlier in the week, Mitchell (13-4) visits Watertown on Saturday for its third game in five days.