ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Traxler: With nothing to lose, the streak ends for the Kernels

It was the streak that seemed like it wouldn't stop. It got to 23 at the end of the 2016-17 season and rolled right through a coaching change, and chugged through the 20s and 30s up to 42 consecutive losses for the Mitchell High School boys baske...

4034506+022418.S.DR_.MITCHELL_BBB3.jpg

It was the streak that seemed like it wouldn’t stop.

It got to 23 at the end of the 2016-17 season and rolled right through a coaching change, and chugged through the 20s and 30s up to 42 consecutive losses for the Mitchell High School boys basketball team.

Players were frustrated. Fans were tired of the losing. It was clear that coach Todd Neuendorf, who was hired last April to help turn things around, was struggling with the losses piling up. Neuendorf, for example, never had a season with double-digit losses in a decade at Aberdeen Roncalli, and certainly never anything like this.

For those in attendance, Friday night won’t be forgotten.

Mitchell knew its season was over before it left the locker room. With 18 teams in Class AA boys basketball and only 16 making the postseason with a new playoff format, the Kernels’ season wasn’t going to continue.

ADVERTISEMENT

And there was nothing to lose. When you’re 0-19, there’s no reason to hold back. If anything, the Kernels just wanted to avoid another offseason with a winless season hanging around.

The Kernels hit all the right notes needed for them to pull an upset. They had an efficient scoring night, they played solid defense, and slowed down the opposing team’s best player. And they had big games from some unsung heroes, like Kaden Soukup who drained some 3-pointers when Pierre was pulling away in the third quarter and Kiel Nelson - who has battled taller players all year - having a great rebounding and defensive night. And Carter Cavanaugh converted the final layup, a shot the Kernels struggled with all season.

Mitchell needed some breaks, too. So when Pierre completed a 90-foot pass right on the money to Peyton Zabel, you can understand if some Kernel hearts sunk. And somehow, the ball sprung on the rim a few times and fell off.

The final score: Kernels 47, Governors 45. It set off pandemonium. And joy. And relief. And tears. Players compared the feeling to winning a state championship. It was a win so sweet the students rushed the floor twice.

And given the reaction online and via social media, there are a lot of people - Kernel fans or not - who were interested in seeing the streak end and the Kernels win. It shows that Kernel basketball still matters, even in a 1-19 season.

It’s hard to know just how good Mitchell will be next year or three years from now. But if the Kernels do turn it around, it will be the win that stopped the streak that’s remembered.

Related Topics: BOYS BASKETBALLKERNELS
Traxler is the assistant editor and sports editor for the Mitchell Republic. He's worked for the newspaper since 2014 and has covered a wide variety of topics. He can be reached at mtraxler@mitchellrepublic.com.
What To Read Next
Prep basketball action from around the state for Friday, Jan. 27.
Stevens opened the third quarter on an 8-0 run, erasing the 25-24 advantage the Kernels held at half. The Raiders never gave the lead back.
Members Only
Rapid City Stevens defeats the Mitchell Kernels 56-37.
“Women’s athletics at South Dakota State has always been valued and supported,” SDSU women's basketball coach Aaron Johnston said. “We’re lucky to have people that invest in women’s athletics here.”