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MANCHESTER — You were struck by the postgame celebration. Or the real lack of one.
Sure, there were plenty of smiles and individual hand clapping as the clock rolled to zeroes, the buzzer went off, and the North Linn Lynx knew they had officially cinched the school’s first trip to the boys’ state basketball tournament in 40 years.
But there wasn’t a ton of overt jubilation. These guys just got in line to congratulate the opponent, picked up their official state tournament qualifier banner, took some photos with family and friends, and that was it.
Oh, and helped pick up garbage from the stands of West Delaware’s gym. How about that?
“You never want to say that you expected to win,” said North Linn guard Jake Hilmer, after his top-ranked club eased past Clayton Ridge, 57-31, in a Class 1A substate final Saturday night. “But there was kind of a feeling in the locker room before the game that we’ve got to win this one. When you saw that crowd we had, holy cow. It was jam packed over there. There’s no better feeling than playing in front of something like that. I think we’re waiting for that celebration until we win a couple more.”
It’s hard to bet against them. They’re 25-0 and have crushed opponents by an average of 43 points per game.
That’s a staggering figure. North Linn’s two “closest” games were against Clinton Prince of Peace, a win by 14 points in the regular season and another by 11 Thursday night in the district finals.
“Coming into this game, we were pretty confident,” said North Linn guard Ryan Miller. “I mean, we knew we were going to have to play really well to win. Once we got rolling, we just kept going. We finished it all the way out to the end.”
This school is hoping to make a lot of trips back and forth from Troy Mills, Coggon and Walker to Des Moines in the next two weeks. North Linn’s girls are 24-1 and in the 2A state tournament.
That’s quite a winter.
“One of the things I told them the other night when we played Prince of Peace was that I was most proud that there’s nobody cocky in the school,” said North Linn Co-Coach Mike Hilmer. “You walk around, and you wouldn’t even know we have two good basketball teams. That’s humble kids, and I think that’s why they get the success they have gotten.”
North Linn beat Clayton Ridge (16-9) in January, 82-45, so this was no surprise. The Lynx hit their first five shots from the field for a 12-0 lead and never were seriously threatened.
Jake Hilmer and fellow sophomore David Seber led a quartet of double-figures scorers with 16 points each. Miller had 13 to eclipse the 1,000-point plateau for his career, and he’s got one more season remaining.
Miller also pulled down eight rebounds, as did center Adam Waskow, who chipped in 10 points. They all did a wonderful job defensively against Clayton Ridge’s Jace Moore and Robby Sweers, who combined for 11 points, 24 points under their combined average.
“I thought that was one of our best defensive efforts of the year,” Mike Hilmer said. “Offensively, honestly, I think these last three games have been our worst ... You can attribute it tonight to a little bit longer court. But you can attribute the other part to it being good coaching on the other team. When you play teams over and over from your conference, you are so familiar with them. No, we didn’t score as much tonight. But they didn’t, either.”
North Linn will find out Tuesday who its state tourney quarterfinal opponent will be. The Lynx surely will be the top seed.
This is the first state appearance for Mike Hilmer, in his 18th season at North Linn and 26th as a head coach. Co-Coach Bob Hilmer, Mike’s son and Jake’s grandpa, is Iowa’s all-time winningest coach and will be taking his ninth team to state.
“It’s obviously special to share a moment like this with your father and grandfather,” Jake Hilmer said. “I think I wanted to win that one for my dad. He’s been coaching a long time and never got down there. You know how much he’s put in. So that was a special moment for me.”
NORTH LINN (57): Trevor Boge 0-3 0-0 0, Adam Waskow 4-7 2-2 10, Ryan Miller 4-10 4-4 13, David Seber 6-12 0-0 16, Jake Hilmer 6-9 4-6 16, Carter Johnson 0-0 2-2 2, Bradley Pflughaupt 0-0 0-0 0, Josh Smith 0-0 0-0 0, Mitchell Rawson 0-0 0-0 0, Sean Boardman 0-0 0-0 0, Austin Miller 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-41 12-14 57.
CLAYTON RIDGE (31): Jace Moore 3-9 0-1 7, Robby Sweers 2-9 0-0 4, Kole Brandel 0-1 0-0 0, Sawyer Schmelzer 4-11 0-0 12, Austin Helle 0-1 0-0 0, Mason Reimer 2-4 0-0 6, Chance White 1-1 0-0 2, Dakota Olson 0-0 0-0 0, Brandon Wahls 0-1 0-0 0, Erik Sarazua 0-0 0-0 0, Braydn Harbaugh 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 12-38 0-1 31.
Halftime — North Linn 30, Clayton Ridge 20. 3-point goals — North Linn 5-15 (Boge 0-1, R. Miller 1-6, Seber 4-8, Hilmer 0-1), Clayton Ridge 7-19 (Moore 1-2, Sweers 0-4, Schmelzer 4-9, Reimer 2-3, Harbaugh 0-1). Rebounds — Clayton Ridge 20 (Sweers 6), North Linn 29 (Waskow, R. Miller 8). Total fouls — North Linn 6, Clayton Ridge 14. Fouled out — None. Turnovers — North Linn 12, Clayton Ridge 21.
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