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'We lost the game in the second quarter' as Washington holds off Mitchell boys' attempts at second-half rally

Kernels fall to a Sioux Falls program for the third time in four games.

Mitchell boys basketball player Aiden Myers
Mitchell's Aiden Myers (3) dribbles through contact from Sioux Falls Washington's Mikele Kambalo during the first half of a boys basketball contest on Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2022, at Washington High School, in Sioux Falls.
Landon Dierks / Republic
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SIOUX FALLS — Since the calendar flipped to February, South Dakota’s largest city hasn’t been kind to the Mitchell High School basketball team.

On Tuesday night, Class AA No. 4 Mitchell made several second-half attempts at a rally but never quite recovered from a 15-4 run that gave Sioux Falls Washington a nine-point halftime lead, falling 71-66 at Washington High School.

It was the Kernels’ third defeat at the hands of a Sioux Falls high school in two weeks — all by single digits and two coming away from home — following their come-from-behind overtime triumph over Lincoln on Jan. 29 at the Corn Palace.

“We continue to talk about not digging ourselves these holes,” Mitchell coach Ryker Kreutzfeldt said. “We should be tired of having to dig ourselves out. It needs to be fixed.”

Both teams found plenty of offense in the early going, as Washington crept ahead by a single point after eight minutes on a pull-up jump shot by Joe Uttecht after a flurry of 3-pointers, including three by the Kernels.

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Mitchell continued to hit from long range in the second quarter, as Gavyn Degen connected on back-to-back-to-back triples to give the Kernels a 27-25 lead.

From there the Warriors closed the half on what would be a game-defining run to take a 40-31 lead into the locker room.

“We lost the game in the second quarter,” Kreutzfeldt said. “We just had a lapse. We went on a run, but then we had some things happen (namely an untimely technical foul) and couldn’t ever recover from it. We dug ourselves too big of a hole and weren't playing together well enought to get ourselves out of it.”

After falling behind by 11 in the third quarter, a brief spurt got Mitchell back within two possessions, but the Warriors carried a 57-49 lead into the final eight minutes.

Twice the Kernels drew within four in the final frame, including at 60-56 midway through the quarter, but the Warriors held firm. Mitchell found just two points in the next three minutes, as Washington created another 11-point cushion it rode to victory.

“It felt like every time we got close they made a tough shot,” Kreutzfeldt said. “And then we just made poor decisions offensively — bad shots, turnovers — we just didn't make enough winning plays down the stretch.”

Mitchell boys basketball player Caden Hinker
Mitchell's Caden Hinker is met at the rim by Sioux Falls Washington's Angok Akot (4) during the second half of a boys basketball contest on Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2022, at Washington High School, in Sioux Falls.
Landon Dierks / Republic

After a 10-2 start, Tuesday's loss was Mitchell’s third in four games. However, Kreutzfeldt and senior Caden Hinker aren’t too concerned by the recent dip in results right now.

“Whether you win or lose, it really doesn’t mean that much right now,” Kreutzfeldt said. “It determines seeding a little bit, but at the end of the day you’re trying to play your best at the end of the year and if we’re taking losses but learning from them, it’ll make us better. That’s what our focus is. How can we get ourselves playing the best basketball we can so we can be a contender.

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“We’re playing some good teams right now and obviously we’re competing with them,” added Hinker. “It’s just the little things make a difference in games like this. I think we’re alright and we’ll bounce back.”

Hinker led all scorers with 25 points to go with eight rebounds and three steals. Dylan Soulek added 13 points, five rebounds and four assists, while Steele Morgan chipped in nine points and nine rebounds. The Kernels shot 22 of 52 (42.3%) from the field and 11 of 23 on 3-pointers.

Washington (9-6) got 21 points from Joe Uttecht, including 17 in the first half, along with 13 points and five rebounds from Mikele Kambalo. Mandalla Mohamed also had 12 points and four rebounds, as the Warriors shot 24 of 55 (43.6%) and 11 of 21 (52.4%) from long range.

Mitchell (11-5, 6-1 ESD) hosts Rapid City Stevens at 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 18 and Rapid City Central at 1:30 p.m. Feb. 19.

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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