116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
JESUP - As Mike Hilmer was rushing his team back on to the court for a celebratory photo, he lamented, tongue-in-cheek, his lack of veterans.
'You'd think we don't have any seniors,” he said with a smile as he had to herd his North Linn team back to the floor for photos after the Lynx's 67-48 win over Meskwaki Saturday night in a Class 1A substate final at Jesup High School.
Well, the Lynx do have one senior in reserve Kaleb Kurt, but the seven North Linn players who hit the floor (five juniors and two sophomores) played like state tournament veterans.
The top-ranked Lynx (25-0) advance to the state tournament at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines for the fifth straight year. They received the top seed and will face South Winneshiek in the quarterfinals at 10 a.m. Monday, March 8.
North Linn has won 99 consecutive non-state tournament games, finishing second in Class 2A last season, winning it all in 2A in 2019, finishing second in 1A in 2018 and third in 2017.
Meskwaki, which cut a lead as large as 15 in the first half to five early in the fourth quarter, finishes at 20-4.
Early on, it appeared the Lynx would blow the Warriors out of the gym. All seven in the North Linn rotation scored in a first quarter that finished with the Lynx ahead 25-10.
'I told the kids I was really proud of them that they got off to that good start,” Hilmer said. 'We didn't do that in our last game and it was especially important tonight against a team that has been riding a wave of momentum like they have.”
Meskwaki settled down in the second quarter, cutting the deficit to 34-23 at the break. The Warriors kept battling and when Taurice Grant hit a short jumper early in the fourth quarter, North Linn's lead was down to 49-44.
That's when Dylan Kurt took over. The junior, who had missed some time during the season with a leg injury, scored 12 of his game-high 21 points in the final frame, including six straight after Meskwaki pulled within five.
'Coach Hilmer really preaches composure,” he said. 'Meskwaki made so many great runs and near the end they were pressuring out so I just tried to attack the basket and either score or create chances for others.”
Hilmer credited Kurt for his willingness to take control as the Warriors were really pressuring Austin Hilmer, trying to get the ball out of his hands.
'They were really sticking their best defender on Austin,” said Coach Hilmer. 'It's really a tribute to both of those kids with Dylan stepping up and Austin letting him. They are really good friends and that is the great thing about this team, nobody really cares who scores.”
Sophomore Tate Haughenbury chipped in with 16 points and another sophomore, Ben Wheatley, had 11. Osceola Tyon was the only Warrior in double figures, finishing with 16.
Dylan Kurt insisted he didn't feel any pressure to continue the Lynx's run of state appearances.
'People think that it puts pressure on us,” he said. 'I don't think of it as pressure, I think of it as a standard, that is play your best and go as far as you can in the postseason.”
MESKWAKI SETTLEMENT (48): Osceola Tyon 6 2-2 16, Larnell Velaquez 0 0-0 0, Taurice Grant 4 0-0 8 , Evan Nelson 2 2-4 6, Tiernan Wanatee 2 3-4 8, Kallen White Eyes 1 0-0 2, Bishop Chavez 4 0-0 8. Totals: 19 7-10 48.
NORTH LINN (67): Ben Wheatley 5 0-0 11, Cade Haughenbury 2 2-2 6, Dylan Kurt 7 6-7 21, Austin Hilmer 3 1-4 8, Tate Haughenbury 7 1-5 16, Gunner Vanourney 1 0-0 3, Kaleb Kurt 1 0-0 2. Totals: 26 10-18 67.
Halftime: North Linn 34, Meskwaki 23. 3-point goals: Meskwaki 3 (Tyon 2, Wanatee), North Linn 5 (Wheatley, Kurt, Hilmer, T. Haughenbury, Vanourney). Total fouls: Meskwaki 15, North Linn 10. Fouled out: Chavez, Nelson. Technical fouls: none.