DES MOINES — You wondered how they’d react to a close game. They kind of did, too.
But these kids did fine Monday afternoon at Wells Fargo Arena. Just fine.
“We’re young, so I didn’t know if we’d respond well or not,” North Linn’s Trevor Boge said, after his top-ranked and top-seeded club overcame Maple Valley-Anthon-Oto, 54-49, in a Class 1A boys’ state basketball tournament quarterfinal. “But we have so many good players, that keeps a lot of pressure off everyone.”
North Linn came in having beaten opponents by an average of 41 points, its closest game an 11-point win over Clinton Prince of Peace. Blowouts are generally the exception here, though.
The Lynx (26-0) hadn’t been behind in the second half of a game all season, yet trailed by five points midway through the third quarter and by a point early in the fourth. A timely 11-2 run followed and permanently turned things.
For a club with three sophomore starters and no seniors, that was impressive.
“We haven’t had a lot of those close games, and we’re really young, so it was probably a big question mark for a lot of you guys how we were going to respond,” said North Linn’s Jake Hilmer. “I think we responded pretty good tonight. We have no seniors, but we have a lot of leaders. When push came to shove, I think we responded to everything they did really well. We handled ourselves well out there.”
Especially Hilmer, the superb sophomore point guard, who dipped, darted, sprinted and slashed his way to a game-high 18 points. He also added seven assists to pad his state-leading season total.
But it wasn’t just him that keyed a 22-point fourth quarter. A lot of guys contributed, with North Linn’s pressure defense appearing to wear down MVAO (18-8).
“We wanted to make them take tough shots,” said North Linn’s Ryan Miller, who had 12 points. “Don’t give up layups ... They’re just physical. We had to keep them out of the lane and live and die with them shooting 3-pointers. It worked out for us.”
“One of the main things we talked about at halftime was increasing the pressure on them,” said North Linn Co-Coach Bob Hilmer. “Particularly on a miss. Get up, get right in front of them, make them doing something with the ball right away. Their key ballhandler couldn’t handle the ball all the time that way.”
North Linn shot just 39.5 percent from the field, including 3 for 17 from the arc, and was outrebounded by seven. But the Lynx forced 19 turnovers and were solid from the free-throw line (14 of 18).
“The thing about our team is I feel we’re in a lot better shape than them,” Jake Hilmer said. “As you could tell there in the fourth quarter, they were getting tired, and we went on a couple of runs that we needed to. We are at our best when we’re in the open court, so if we can force turnovers, that’s our style. If you can limit your turnovers, you’ve got a chance. But turnovers we tend to turn into points.”
Co-Coach Mike Hilmer began coaching the bulk of this team when it was in second and third grade. They took on all comers growing up, from Waukee to Cedar Rapids Xavier.
He said that experience made him confident his boys would handle the fourth-quarter pressure.
“A lot of people always say ‘Well, you don’t play anybody. You play in this league, you do this, or you do that,’” Hilmer said. “We can’t help who we play. I’m the athletic director, so trust me, we try and schedule the best we can. Did we know we were going to have to have composure in a tight game down at state? Yes. Did we wonder if our kids would respond poorly? To be honest, I was more worried about how we were going to respond at the beginning of the game. These kids are gamers, we have taken them every place we possibly could.”
AT DES MOINES
MAPLE VALLEY/ANTHON-OTO (49): Colby Seuntjens 4-8 3-5 11, Brady Gothier 2-6 2-2 8, Connor Beeck 4-9 0-0 10, Juan Delegarza 2-6 7-12 11, Ben Sadler 0-0 0-0 0, Calvin Ferris 1-1 0-0 3, Dylan Blake 0-0 0-0 0, Ely Fundermann 1-4 1-2 3, Kyle Sexton 0-0 0-0 0, Haden Kuhl 0-0 0-0 0, Adam Ehlers 1-1 0-0 3. Totals 15-35 13-21 49.
NORTH LINN (54): Jake Hilmer 5-10 8-10 18, David Seber 3-11 2-2 9, Ryan Miller 4-11 2-4 12, Trevor Boge 2-7 1-2 5, Adam Waskow 2-2 0-0 4, Brad Pflughhaupt 1-2 0-0 2, Mitchell Rawson 0-0 0-0 0, Carter Johnson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 17-43 17-22 54.
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Halftime — North Linn 20, MVAO 19. 3-point goals — MVAO 6-17 (Seuntjens 0-1, Gothier 2-5, Beeck 2-6, Delegarza 0-1, Ferris 1-1, Fundermann 0-2, Ehlers 1-1), North Linn 3-17 (Hilmer 0-3, Seber 1-7, Miller 2-6, Boge 0-1). Rebounds — MVAO 30 (Delegarza 7), North Linn 23 (Seber, Boge, Waskow 4). Total fouls — MVAO 21, North Linn 19. Fouled out — Hilmer, Waskow. Assists — MVAO 9 (Delegarza 3), North Linn 9 (Hilmer 7). Turnovers — MVAO 19, North Linn 10.
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