116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
DES MOINES — You asked Dylan Kurt about his knee and got an unexpected answer.
'Which one?' the North Linn wing said, after his top-ranked team beat South Winneshiek, 77-52, in a Class 1A state tournament opener Monday morning at Wells Fargo Arena.
Which one? Are you kidding?
It's Kurt's left knee that's a mess, but tripping over a dog gate at his family's home caused the right one to swell up some leading into this game. He said he popped a couple of Ibuprofen and powered through, just as he has most of this season.
'I'm just thankful for the doctors, my parents, everyone who has helped me,' he said. 'Just really thankful to be out here.'
Kurt had 15 points here, one of four double-figures scorers for the Lynx (26-0). He also had a team-best five assists and four steals.
The 6-foot-2 junior had his right knee act up on him early this season, with it getting progressively worse. He was diagnosed with torn cartilage that was floating around in the knee and given two options: have surgery that would end the problem but also his season, or try an initial microscopic procedure that could allow him to return IF there was no pain or swelling, with a second surgery eventually necessary.
He opted for that second thing, returned in early February and has played in NL's last 10 games.
'It actually feels really good,' Kurt said. 'I'm confident moving out there. It's great. They said we'd just have to wait and see, try it out and see what happens, if there would be any pain or swelling. There has been no pain, no swelling, so I'm incredibly grateful I'm out here, and I try to make the most of it.'
'It was a blessing to have him back,' said North Linn Coach Mike Hilmer. 'Obviously he has been huge down the stretch for us. He gives us a second, third option offensively, though, well, we've got a lot of options, honestly. But his size just provides a matchup issue for people.'
North Linn's defensive pressure provided an issue for South Winneshiek, turning the Warriors over 15 times in the first half and 22 times overall. The Lynx built a 43-27 halftime lead.
'I think turnovers are what killed us,' said South Winn's Jacob Herold, who led his team with 15 points. 'We kind of cut that down in the second half, but those turnovers, they really killed us. We watched film, that's what we saw from them. They force turnovers. But I will admit they're a lot faster in real life than they look on film.'
Tate Haughenbury had a game-high 19 points for North Linn, which plays Martensdale-St. Marys (25-0) in a 6 p.m. Wednesday semifinal. Ben Wheatley and Austin Hilmer added 13 points apiece.
Haughenbury and Wheatley are sophomores who were deep bench guys in their team's run to the 2A championship game last season.
'It was nerve-wracking. I, for sure, was nervous,' Haughenbury said. 'But it was a super fun experience, and I just want us to keep things moving down here.'
This was South Winn's first trip to state since 1987, which made the loss sting just a little bit less. Not to say it was totally painless, though.
The Warriors got here by winning four prior postseason games: one in overtime and three more in which they won with fourth-quarter rallies.
'North Linn, they just kept bringing it, kept bringing it,' said Coach Blake Moen. 'Unfortunately, we just couldn't keep up. But proud of the guys from the beginning. They were ready to go.'
'It was awesome,' Herold said. 'We've only had two other teams in school history make it down here. Just to be a part of that history really meant a lot to us. Going into our substate game, we talked about history. Before this game, I was like 'Hey, history. Let's go do it' to the guys. The minute I stepped onto that floor, it was surreal right away. Once you get going, it was just another basketball game. But, yeah, this means a lot to us.'