MARION - As the prep volleyball season nears the midway point, Cedar Rapids Xavier identified a vital ingredient if the Saints are to retain their No. 1 ranking in Class 4A.
Now is the time to turn up the defense.
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DES MOINES — They did virtually everything they wanted to, executed the game plan perfectly.
Hold down Joe Smoldt as much as possible? Check.
Rebound competitively against a larger opponent? Done.
Have a lead in the fourth quarter? Yep.
But sometimes that dang basketball just won’t go through the hoop. Because of that, North Linn took its first loss of the season Thursday morning.
The top-ranked Lynx shot 31 percent from the field, going scoreless the first five minutes of the fourth quarter and dropped a 58-53 decision to No. 2 Gladbrook-Reinbeck in the Class 1A boys’ state basketball tournament semifinals at Wells Fargo Arena.
“We definitely got good looks,” said North Linn guard Jake Hilmer. “Sometimes jumpers don’t fall. Kind of bad timing. We didn’t let shots not falling keep us from shooting open shots.”
That was the thing. North Linn (26-1) had a ton of open 3-point attempts but finished 5 for 25 from that distance.
David Seber leads the Lynx in treys but suffered through a 1-for-12 day. Ryan Miller was an acceptable 3 of 9 beyond the arc, but consider he was shooting 46 percent coming in.
Miller finished with 15 points. Hilmer had 20 points, six rebounds and eight assists, yet he was only 7 of 21 from the field.
“Very proud of our kids,” said North Linn Co-Coach Mike Hilmer. “We’re one of the few teams down here without a senior, but I don’t think there was any point in this game at all where we lacked leadership. Obviously we did not shoot well. Part of that might have been energy we were exerting trying to stop Joe Smoldt.”
That was Seber’s responsibility a lot of the time. Senior guard Smoldt is the state’s leading scorer but was “held” to 19 points, 11 under his average.
He nailed a 3-pointer, a two-point jumper, then penetrated and dished to teammate Tyler Pierce for a conventional three-point play early in the fourth quarter, as Gladbrook-Reinbeck (26-2) turned a 42-40 deficit into a 48-42 lead. North Linn led at the half, 33-26.
“I had the mindset there that I had to start stepping up for my team,” said Smoldt, who will play collegeiately at Upper Iowa. “I hadn’t played the best.”
“Basically we were trying to deny him the ball as much as we could,” said North Linn Co-Coach Bob Hilmer. “Then when he had it, try and make sure we had help right there. He’s such a good jumpshooter off the dribble. He goes right over you, he jumps so high.”
Two Miller free throws and a Hilmer and-one gave North Linn its first fourth-quarter points with 3:11 and 2:55 remaining, respectively, cutting G-R’s lead to 48-47. But the Rebels went back up by six points in the final minute, and that was that.
Like Hilmer, Smoldt had a fine overall game, finishing with 19 points, nine rebounds and eight assists.
North Linn plays Remsen St. Mary’s (25-1) in the 1A consolation game Friday morning at 10. Gladbrook-Reinbeck meets Grand View Christian (26-1) in Friday night’s championship game.
“We took 17 more shots than they did, but we didn’t knock them down, and that’s the problem,” Jake Hilmer said. “We held Smoldt to 19, his season low was 17. We made other guys beat us, which is what you’ve got to do against a team like that. I think this is a game that if we play it again in 365 days, we’re walking off the court with a ‘W.’”
AT DES MOINES
GLADBROOK-REINBECK (58): Matt Roeding 1-1 0-0 2, Tyler Pierce 6-9 5-7 17, Walker Thede 3-5 0-1 6, Caden Kickbush 3-9 4-4 12, Joe Smoldt 6-15 3-4 19, Thomas Mussig 1-1 0-0 2, Mason Skovgard 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 20-41 12-16 58.
NORTH LINN (53): Trevor Boge 2-6 1-2 5, Adam Waskow 3-4 0-0 6, Jake Hilmer 7-21 6-8 20, David Seber 1-12 0-0 3, Ryan Miller 4-11 4-4 15, Brad Pflughaupt 1-3 0-0 3, 1-3 0-0 3, Carter Johnson 0-1 1-2 1. Totals 18-58 12-16 53.
Halftime — North Linn 33, Gladbrook-Reinbeck 26. 3-point goals — Gladbrook-Reinbeck 6-14 (Kickbush 2-5, Smoldt 4-8, Skovgard 0-1), North Linn 5-25 (Hilmer 0-1, Seber 1-12, Miller 3-9, Boge 0-1, Pflughaupt 1-2). Rebounds — Gladbrook-Reinbeck 35 (Kickbush, Smoldt 9), North Linn 30 (Waskow 8). Total fouls — Gladbrook-Reinbeck 12, North Linn 17. Fouled out — Waskow. Assists — Gladbrook-Reinbeck 15 (Smoldt 8), North Linn 12 (Hilmer 8). Turnovers — Gladbrook-Reinbeck 14, North Linn 6.
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