116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
DES MOINES — You don't win virtually every game over a four-year span by being able to play just one style of basketball. Sometimes you're forced got to change it up.
You all know the genesis of the incredible run North Linn has been on is pressure defense, creating oodles of turnovers and scoring off of them. That's just what the Lynx do.
But Wednesday night's 63-50 win over Martensdale-St. Marys in a Class 1A state tournament semifinal was different. Much more of a slug-it-out affair.
At least comparatively.
'We've been practicing for these tight games all week,' said North Linn's Ben Wheatley. 'Coach has been (stressing) that since we made the state tournament. Since day one, he has been stressing that if we make it this far, we are going to be in these kinds of games. That's all we practice. We practice late moments, we run drills for them. I think we played well.'
North Linn (27-0) will play Montezuma (24-2) in Friday's noon 1A title game. It's the fourth consecutive season the Lynx are in the finals.
'I think we can play any style,' said North Linn Coach Mike Hilmer. 'I don't think people understand that. They think we just run around and create turnovers, which we do. But not every team is going to turn the ball over 30 times. Sometimes you've got to buckle down and play half-court 'D.''
Hilmer said his club practiced half-court defense extensively in the span between its substate final win and its first game here Monday, a lopsided quarterfinal win over South Winneshiek. It actually faced some tight games in the regular season, as the Tri-Rivers Conference was as strong top to bottom as it has been.
That work paid off here. North Linn (27-0) led by three points after a quarter and extended its edge to 11 at halftime.
The lead was always pretty secure but not totally.
'People think 'Well, let's just get them in a half-court game,'' said North Linn's Dylan Kurt. 'We still bring that intensity and the effort to make it hard for them to score.'
Kurt was one of four Lynx in double-figures scoring with 17. Cade Haughenbury added 16, Wheatley and Austin Hilmer 12 each.
Haughenbury also had a team-high seven rebounds, shrugging off a back problem that shut him down from practicing last week.
'He has had a bad back for quite a while,' Coach Hilmer said. 'Literally for the nine days before we played here, he didn't do anything. He was mad at me because I wouldn't let him shoot, I wouldn't let him do anything. We were trying to get his back healthy. And it has held up pretty good.'
Martensdale-St. Marys (25-1) used 3-point shooting to stay close-ish here. Hogan Franey had five of them and a game-high 19 points.
North Linn won the Class 2A championship in 2019 and was runner-up to Boyden-Hull last year. It lost to Grand View Christian in the 2018 1A title game.
'I've been in the stands twice and on the bench or in the game twice,' said Wheatley, a sophomore. 'I've looked up to the guys ahead of me. I knew I'd be on this stage eventually, so I've just always mentally prepared for it. It's kind of crazy we've been down here five years and been to the championship game four times. It's crazy.'
MARTENSDALE-ST. MARYS (50): Jack Franey 2-4 4-4 9, Carson Elbert 3-10 3-3 10, Hogan Franey 5-11 4-6 19, J.T. Archibald 0-1 0-0 0, Trey Baker 4-12 1-1 10, Troy Holt 1-1 0-0 2, Gavin Stott 0-1 0-0 0, Derek Kleve 0-2 0-0 0, Chase Boeling 0-0 0-0 0, Kasey Carter 0-0 0-0 0, Tyler Baker 0-0 0-0 0, Baize Gibson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 15-42 12-14 50.
NORTH LINN (63): Ben Wheatley 4-9 3-4 12, Cade Haughenbury 4-4 8-9 16, Dylan Kurt 7-8 2-2 17, Austin Hilmer 3-7 4-4 12, Tate Haughenbury 2-7 2-5 6, Gunner Vanourney 0-0 0-0 0, Kaleb Kurt 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-35 19-24 63.
Halftime — North Linn 34, Martensdale-St. Marys 23. 3-point goals — Martensdale-St. Marys 8-29 (J. Franey 1-3, Elbert 1-6, H. Franey 5-10, Archibald 0-1, Baker 1-6, Stott 0-1, Kleve 0-2), North Linn 4-7 (Wheatley 1-3, D. Kurt 1-1, Hilmer 2-3). Rebounds — Martensdale-St. Marys 23 (T. Baker 8), North Linn 23 (C. Haughenbury 7). Total fouls — Martensdale-St. Marys 22, North Linn 11. Fouled out — T. Baker. Assists — Martensdale-St. Marys 12 (J. Franey, T. Baker 3), North Linn 8 (Hilmer 5). Turnovers — Martensdale-St. Marys 12, North Linn 8.
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