116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
DES MOINES - They already had beaten the ‘3' and the ‘2,' so the Montezuma Braves figured they might as well go out and beat the ‘1' Friday afternoon and become the one. The state championship one.
Montezuma built a double-digit lead in the second quarter and held on to topple North Linn, 44-41, in a thriller of a Class 1A boys' basketball title game at Wells Fargo Arena.
The Braves felt snubbed by being seeded seventh in this eight-team field and used that as motivation all week. Not that you need motivation once you get down here.
'We had a really tough journey,” said Montezuma's Cole Watts. 'We played the ‘3,' the ‘2,' the ‘1' all in the same tournament. But it doesn't matter ... Just an amazing feeling. I'm full of emotion right now.”
'We talked about it all week, us embracing the ‘7' seed and really running with that,” said Montezuma's Trey Shearer, captain of the 1A all-tournament team. 'So for us to be seeded seventh and win the tournament is a huge deal for all of us. We thought we were a little overlooked, and we wanted to prove everyone wrong. For us to come out here and perform like we did all week is unreal.”
It was a bitter conclusion for North Linn (27-1), which is 134-4 over these last four seasons, three of the losses coming in state championship games. The Lynx won the 2A title in 2019.
There are no seniors in the starting lineup.
'This will be great fuel for the offseason,” said North Linn's Dylan Kurt. 'I know what this feels like, and I'm hoping next year I won't have to feel it.”
'We're going to get ready for next season as soon as we can,” said North Linn's Austin Hilmer. ”We're going to make sure we come back next year and take care of business. We don't end with this feeling.”
Shearer is a special player, a four-year starter at point guard for Montezuma, who finished his career with 2,299 points. He had 13 in his final prep game,
But this was a team deal. Fellow senior Cole Watts added 10 points and junior Eddie Burgess eight points, 12 rebounds and four blocked shots.
They were the main catalysts in a three-year run for Montezuma (25-2) that included a third-place state finish last year and a fourth place in 2019. Burgess missed most of the first half of this season with a knee injury, which is when the Braves lost their two games.
When he returned, this club was unbeatable ... literally.
'(His absence) kind of made everybody realize how important Eddie is and what a great teammate he is,” said Montezuma Coach Derrick Dengler. 'All the things he does to help make us go. I think he brings such a level of teammate. Don't know exactly how to describe it. Unselfishness, and that kind of flows through the team.”
Unheralded starter Cam Johnson had a pair of fourth-quarter layups and clutched up for a pair of huge free throws off a one-and-one situation with 11.1 seconds left in a one-point game. Burgess blocked Hilmer's tying 3-point attempt out of bounds with 2.6 left, then Hilmer missed a very heavily contested trey from the corner off the front rim from the corner at the buzzer.
That summed up the game for North Linn (27-1), which shot just 34 percent from the field. The Lynx just couldn't make enough shots, and they had quite a few good looks on the interior and from distance.
'I've said year after year after year, having seniors makes a big difference,” said North Linn Coach Mike Hilmer. 'They had a lot of them in their starting lineup, and we didn't. Experience, this and that, is important. But being a senior means something a little bit different. I think what was maybe the difference at the beginning. We kind of came out rattled at times, took some bad shots here and there, and they didn't ... I thought for 2 1/2 quarters, we outplayed them. We just got ourselves in too big of a hole.”
North Linn trailed by a 25-12 margin late in the second quarter and by 27-19 at the break. Double-team trapping defense allowed it to creep back within 31-30 late in the third, and it was a 40-39 game with just under three minutes left in the fourth.
The Lynx even had a couple attempts to take the lead but couldn't convert. Tate Haughenbury had 13 points and Hilmer 11 for North Linn.
'I'd say that was as physical a game as we've played all year,” Haughenbury said. 'Montezuma did a great job defensively this game. Coach always told us to make them play a better game to beat us, and that's what happened tonight. They made shots, we didn't play our best game, and they played a great game.”
Shearer, Burgess, Watts, Hilmer and Kurt were the 1A all-tournament team members.
AT DES MOINES
MONTEZUMA (44): Cam Johnson 2-2 2-2 6, Masin Shearer 2-6 1-2 5, Cole Watts 4-10 0-0 10, Trey Shearer 5-10 2-2 13, Eddie Burgess 3-4 2-2 8, Owen Cook 1-3 0-0 2, Gavin Strong 0-1 0-0 0, Camden Michalek 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 17-37 7-8 44.
NORTH LINN (41): Ben Wheatley 3-9 0-0 8, Cade Haughenbury 1-5 0-0 2, Dylan Kurt 2-8 2-2 7, Austin Hilmer 5-14 0-0 11, Tate Haugenbury 5-11 3-4 13, Gunner Vanourney 0-0 0-0 0, Kaleb Kurt 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 16-47 5-6 41.
Halftime - Montezuma 27, North Linn 19. 3-point goals - Montezuma 3-11 (M. SHearer 0-2, Watts 2-5, T. Shearer 1-2, Cook 0-1, Strong 0-1), North Linn 4-18 (Wheatley 2-5, D. Kurt 1-4, Hilmer 1-8, T. Haughenbury 0-1). Rebounds - Montezuma 28 (Burgess 12), North Linn 23 (C. Haughenbury 8). Total fouls - Montezuma 12, North Linn 14. Fouled out - None. Assists - Montezuma 7 (Burgess 3), North Linn 7 (D. Kurt 4). Turnovers - Montezuma 13, North Linn 10.
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