CEDAR RAPIDS — They say you never want to be the guy who replaces a legend. You want to be the guy who replaces the guy who replaced a legend.
Jacob Brindle replaced a legend at Cascade High School, when he took over the boys’ basketball program before last season. Brindle was an assistant for Al Marshall, sliding up a chair on the bench when Marshall retired following Cascade’s runner-up finish in Class 2A at the 2016 state tournament.
All Marshall did was win 738 games in his 47-year career, virtually writing the book on the 2-3 zone defense. Seriously, the guy produced videos on how to be most effective playing it.
Brindle stepped into his significantly sized shoes, if you will, and ran. Cascade went 22-3 last season, losing in the quarterfinals of the 2A state tourney.
This season, the Cougars were 26-1, losing only their regular-season finale to Northeast. Following that blip, they navigated their way through a very tough district and substate, then an even tougher state tournament field to win the school’s first boys’ state basketball championship.
Brindle is The Gazette’s 2018 Boys’ Basketball Coach of the Year. Cedar Rapids Xavier senior guard Matt Mims is the area Player of the Year.
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“We envisioned that these guys could do something special when they were younger coming through,” Brindle said. “When Coach Marshall retired, that was one of the reasons he thought it was a good time to do it. We were kind of a work in progress for a couple of years. A lot of Loras (summer) leagues, a lot of offseason stuff, a lot of competing and going. For these guys to do what they did, the way they did it ... it’s just absolutely unbelievable. And it’s all these guys. Our mantra was just play hard. Play as hard as you can, and see what happens. This was the result.”
Cascade went into the state tourney as a somewhat underappreciated sixth seed, but there was no question it was 2A’s best team. It beat Van Meter by 13 points in the quarterfinals, smoked Sheldon by 22 in the semifinals and handed top-ranked Treynor its only loss in the championship game, rallying in the second half for a 49-38 victory.
It was a pleasure to watch these Cougars play. They had five starters with multiple abilities who screened for each other and shared the ball offensively, not caring who scored the most points.
Derek Koppes, Gannon O’Brien, Johnny Supple, Brock Simon and Haris Hoffman averaged between 8 and 12 points per game.
“That’s probably been the most gratifying part of this run,” said Brindle. “The guys just played how I, we, always dreamed of a team playing ... These guys just ‘got it’ and kept getting better.”
Marshall, by the way, still is involved in the program, attending every game and some practices, there to give advice to Brindle when he wanted it. Everyone insisted this was his state championship as much as it was theirs.
“We’ve had generations of really good players,” Brindle said. “All of these guys have relatives who played that they look up to. Johnny’s uncle, Pete, was a great player for us who never got a chance to do this. They were on some great teams that ran into Solon in the mid-2000s. Pete worked with these guys, took them under his wing. That’s what we do. Gannon’s dad would drive the guys around. So many dads, so many parents.
“We’re a real rural town, a half-hour from Dubuque, 45 minutes from Cedar Rapids. Our school is our community, it’s a pillar of our community. A lot of what we do revolves around our school and these kids. These kids love to work and be together.”
Player of the Year Mims was a three-year starter for Xavier who helped the Saints to back-to-back 3A state titles in 2016 and 2017. The 6-foot point guard always seemed to make the big shots.
Xavier placed third this season. Mims plans to red-shirt next season at Division I South Dakota State, where he’ll play for former Iowa State assistant T.J. Otzelberger.
2017-18 Gazette All-Area boys' basketball team
Jake Hilmer, 5-11, jr., North Linn — Averaged 23.1 points per game, setting state single-season record with 356 assists. Also set state career assists record and has one more season to play. Far and away led state with 180 steals.
Haris Hoffman, 6-1, jr., Cascade — The Cougars won the Class 2A state championship because they were a true team: five starters with multiple skills who shared the ball and the scoring. Hoffman embodied that, a first-team all-state pick in 2A who led Cascade in scoring (12.3 ppg) and rebounding (5.1 rpg). He shot 54 percent from the field, 49 percent from 3-point range and 80 percent from the free-throw line. He also was second on his team in assists.
Trey Hutcheson, 6-6, jr., Linn-Mar — Improved his stock with Division I colleges by averaging 18.7 points per game. Went head to head with Mr. Basketball Joe Wieskamp of Muscatine in a thrilling 4A substate final, scoring 35 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. Made 160 of 185 free throws this season, an 86.7-percent success rate.
Jackson Joens, 6-6, sr., Cedar Rapids Xavier — The Upper Iowa signee finished his distinguished career as a 1,000-point scorer and Xavier’s all-time 3-point shooter. Averaged 16.1 points per game this season, shooting 82 percent from the free-throw line.
Derek Krogmann, 6-7, jr., West Delaware — Averaged a double-double of 20.7 points and 12.4 rebounds for a WD team ranked in the top 10 in 3A much of the season. Shot 58.7 percent from the field. Possible Division I college player.
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Patrick McCaffery, 6-7, jr., Iowa City West — Averaged 19.9 points per game for a Trojans team that finished runner-up in Class 4A. Considered one of the top 50 college recruits in the junior class. Has committed to play for his father, Fran, at the University of Iowa.
Ryan Miller, 5-11, sr., North Linn — Led his team in scoring at 24.3 points per game, shooting 60.5 percent from the field. Also had 90 steals, which ranked seventh in the state. Lynx finished Class 1A state runners-up.
Matt Mims, 6-0, sr., Cedar Rapids Xavier — Three-year starter at point guard guided the Saints to back-to-back Class 3A state titles and a third-place finish this year. Averaged 21.0 points per game this season, setting Xavier’s career scoring record. Led Xavier in rebounding, too. Will play college ball at Division I South Dakota State.
Kris Murray, 6-5, jr., Cedar Rapids Prairie — First-team all-Valley Division pick in the Mississippi Valey Conference. Averaged 16.6 points per game, leading the Hawks. Silky smooth shooter made 94 of 104 free throws, a 90.4 make percentage. He and twin brother, Keegan, are possible D-I college players.
Seybian Sims, 6-7, sr., Iowa City West — Unanimous first-team all-MVC Mississippi Division pick and third-team all-stater in Class 4A. Averaged 14.2 points and 6.7 rebounds for Trojans, who were 4A’s state runner-up. Shot an amazing 76.3 percent from the field, making 148 of 194 attempts.
Player of the year — Matt Mims, Cedar Rapids Xavier
Coach of the year — Jacob Brindle, Cascade
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