Zane Alm, defense drive Mitchell High School to first state tournament berth since 2012

Nick Sabato, The Daily Republic, Mitchell, S.D.
·5 min read

Mar. 7—Todd Neuendorf said Mitchell High School was going to the state tournament if it could stop Watertown's perimeter offense. The Kernel head coach wanted to "turn the water off."

In Saturday's Class AA SoDak 16 game, the water was turned off, the pipes burst and No. 7 Mitchell punched its ticket to the state tournament for the first time since 2012.

The Kernels harassed perimeter players throughout the game, holding the 10th-seeded Arrows to 32.7% shooting, while Zane Alm posted a career-high 28 points in a 66-40 win.

"We had to get over this hump," Neuendorf said. "It was a hump told us about — I knew about 2012, the kids knew about it, parents knew about it — and I was worried about pressure on the kids. But the kids came out and played their best basketball game in every aspect."

Final:

Mitchell 66, Watertown 40.

Zane Alm finishes with a career-high 28 points, 14 rebounds and six assists. The Kernels are headed back to the state tournament for the first time since 2012. #sdpreps pic.twitter.com/V3GqVkvO7x

— Nick Sabato (@NickSabatoMDR) March 7, 2021

After holding Watertown (8-13) to four points in the first quarter, the defense did not relent. The Arrows went 4-for-18 from the 3-point line, as Mitchell — Class AA's best scoring defense during the regular season — set a new season-low in points allowed for the year.

The Watertown trio of Drew Norberg, Dawson Schmidt and Kale Stevenson combined for 50 points in the first meeting with the Kernels this season, but they were held to 34 Saturday.

Sophomore Dylan Soulek kept Schmidt — who averaged 20 points per game in two prior games against Mitchell — to 12 points on 5 of 17 shooting, while also going 1-for-3 from the free-throw line after going 8 of 10 in the first game on Jan. 22.

Like Schmidt, Norberg had 19 points in the first meeting, but mustered 10 points on 3 of 10 shooting against the defense of Lucas Moller, who also connected on all four of his 3-pointers for a career-best 12 points.

The Kernels wanted to cut off right-handed drives, which would also contain kick-outs to open 3-point shooters and any drives into the paint were funneled into Alm and Caden Hinker for contested layups.

"We said defense was going to win the game and we came out and executed," Moller said. "That was something we worked on all week long."

After a 4-4 start to the game, Mitchell (15-6) finished the first quarter on an 8-2 run and then started the second on a 10-2 run. But the offense started clicking in the third quarter, thanks to a monstrous performance from Alm.

The Kernels went 4 of 6 from beyond the 3-point arc in the first half, as the 6-foot-10 Alm dished out five assists to escape oncoming double-teams. But the early 3-point shooting forced Watertown to abandon its double-teams on Alm and Hinker.

By the third quarter, Alm was facing one-on-one coverage against a defender 6 inches shorter and he pounced. The senior scored 15 points in the frame, allowing Mitchell to extend a 12-point halftime lead to 23 going into the fourth quarter.

Alm would finish 12-for-18 from the field, while adding 14 rebounds, six assists and a pair of blocks.

"In the first half, we had so many kick-out 3s," Alm said. "I'd pull in the double-team and then I'd kick it out. Our guards were ready tonight. They came to shoot. I think that was a big factor in getting (the defense) out of there."

With four points in the first three quarters, Hinker scored nine in the fourth to finish with 13 points, eight rebounds and four assists. Soulek added four assists and three steals.

Mitchell will face No. 2 Yankton in the Class AA quarterfinals at 6 p.m. on March 18 at Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City.

Mitchell 66, Watertown 40

Watertown (8-13): Jaxon Engstrom 0-5 0-0 0, Cole Holden 2-4 0-0 4, Dawson Schmidt 5-17 1-3 12, Drew Norberg 3-10 3-5 10, Kale Stevenson 5-8 0-0 12, Reese Stark 0-1 0-0 0, Kohen Kranz 0-1 0-0 0, Devon Baumberger 0-0 0-0 0, J Heasch 0-1 0-0 0, Trevon Rawdon 0-0 0-0 0, Ty Lilla 0-0 0-0 0, Braedon Zaug 0-0 0-0 0, Mack Johnson 0-1 0-0 0, Evan Hamre 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 16-49 4-8 40.

Mitchell (15-6): Caden Hinker 6-16 1-3 13, Zane Alm 12-18 4-5 28, Lucas Moller 4-4 0-0 12, Ben Helleloid 2-3 0-0 5, Dylan Soulek 1-4 0-0 3, Aiden Myers 1-1 0-0 2, Landon Waddell 1-1 0-0 3, Jackson Childs 0-0 0-0 0, Jonah Schmidt 0-1 0-0 0, Gavyn Degen 0-2 0-0 0, A.J. Siemsen 0-0 0-0 0, Charlie McCardle 0-0 0-0 0, Steele Morgan 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 27-52 5-8 66.

WHS 4 15 24 40

MHS 12 27 47 66

3-point field goals: WHS 4-18 (Stevenson 2-5, Norberg 1-2, Schmidt 1-7, Kranz 0-1, Engstrom 0-3); MHS 7-12 (Moller 4-4, Helleloid 1-1, Waddell 1-1, Soulek 1-2, Degen 0-1, Hinker 0-3). Rebounds: WHS 24 (Holden 5, Schmidt 5); MHS 38 (Alm 14). Assists: WHS 9 (Schmidt 5); MHS 16 (Alm 6). Steals: WHS 6 (Holden 2, Schmidt 2); MHS 5 (Soulek 3). Blocks: WHS 0; MHS 3 (Alm 2). Fouls: WHS 10; MHS 9. Turnovers: WHS 7; MHS 9.