HURON – The No. 5 Mitchell Kernels likely expected to coast to a victory Tuesday night over the Huron Tigers at Huron Arena, but the home squad had other plans. The Tigers played their rival strong, but saw Mitchell pull away in the fourth quarter to win 64-51.
Mitchell 6’8” senior swingman Caden Hinker opened the game with two deep buckets in the Kernel’s first two trips down the court, giving Mitchell a 6-2 early lead.
The Tigers then proceeded to go on an 8-0 run behind a pair of three-point baskets from Brandon Decker and Max Kranzler and a hard-fought basket by Reilyn Zavesky to jump out to a 10-6 Tiger lead.
From that point, the two teams battled, with Mitchell using the high/low game between Charlie McCardle and Steele Morgan to score a pair of buckets to knot the game at 10.
Kranzler hit another deep shot to make it 13-10 before Hinker went on his own short run to give the Kernels a 15-13 lead. Jayden Beck snuck in a bucket ahead of the end of the first quarter to tie the first frame at 15.
While the Tigers were able to keep Mitchell’s top player off the scoreboard for the entire second quarter, the Kernels got excellent production from McCardle and Morgan, finding holes in the Tiger defense by working the baseline and high/low game.
The Tigers used balanced scoring in the second period, however, to keep the game a back-and-forth affair, as six Huron players scored in the quarter. The two teams headed to halftime tied at 29.
The third quarter is when the rivalry began to shine through. Play began to get chippy, with Beck drawing a technical foul for the Tigers and Hinker drawing one for Mitchell.
In the midst of the tense play, the Tigers offense struggled, with a pair of Cade McNeil layups the only field goals until the final 90 seconds of the quarter, when Kranzler hit the final points of the frame to bring the Tigers within five to end the third period, 41-36.
Huron shot just 38 percent from the field in the second half overall, and that was evident in the fourth quarter as the Kernels hit their first four shots from the field and four free throws in the quarter, allowing Mitchell to take a 54-41 lead. After the first miss of the final frame, Aiden Myers knifed through the Tigers defense for a layup to give Mitchell a 15 point lead, the largest deficit the game would see.
The Tigers opened up the offense in the second half of the fourth quarter, starting with a sharp cut by Dylan Lichty to the hoop for his only bucket of the game. The Kernels continued to answer with points on each trip down the court, however, keeping the Tigers at bay and not allowing for a late comeback by the home squad.
The final quarter of play by Mitchell impressed Tigers coach Jon Schouten.
“They did what good teams do. They took our best shot. They waited for their chance. They adjusted to the officiating,” Schouten observed. ”We settled for the outside jump shot until we got to the middle of the fourth quarter. By the time we figured it out, it was too late for us.”
Mitchell moves to 6-2 behind 23 points from Hinker. Morgan scored 12 points, as did McCardle off the bench. Morgan and Hinker each grabbed seven rebounds to pace the Kernels.
Max Kranzler led Huron with 18 points. McNeil scored eight, Beck pitched in seven, and Zavesky added six and five rebounds to lead the Tigers, who fall to 1-6 on the year.
Even in the loss, Schouten was pleased with the effort from his squad.
“This was the best, most consistent game we’ve played all year,” Schouten raved. “Sometimes, you lay it all on the line and you still get socked in the teeth. We have to get up and get back after it tomorrow and get ready for Friday.”
The Tigers travel to Sioux Falls Lincoln on Friday.
Mitchell 15 29 41 64
Huron 15 29 36 51
Mitchell (6-2): Aiden Myers 3 2-5 9, Caden Hinker 6 8-10 23, Dylan Soulek 3 0-2 8, Charlie McCardle 5 0-1 12, Steele Morgan 5 1-1 12. Totals: 22 11-19 64.
Huron (1-6): Dylan Lichty 1 0-0 2, Cade McNeil 4 0-0 8, Max Kranzler 7 1-2 18, Jayden Beck 3 0-0 7, Reilyn Zavesky 3 0-0 6, Roger Puterbaugh 1 0-0 2, Brandon Decker 1 1-2 4, Isaiah Decker 2 0-0 4. Totals: 22 2-4 51.
FG: M - 22/41 54%; H - 22/51 43%. 3-pt FG: M - 9/21 (Hinker 3, McCardle 2, Soulek 2, Myers, Morgan); H - 5/22 (Kranzler 3, Beck, BDecker). Rebounds: M 28 (Morgan, Hinker 7); H 23 (Zavesky 5). Assists: M 9 (McCardle 3), H 2. Turnovers: M 9, H 10. Fouls: M 10, H 17. Technical Fouls: M (Hinker), H (Beck).