116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
TROY MILLS - Anyone who thinks the North Linn’s boys’ basketball team is going to backslide this season, there is some news for you.
Isn’t ... going ... to ... happen.
“That will not be the case,” said North Linn Coach Mike Hilmer after his club beat Dyersville Beckman, 65-51, Monday night at the NL gym.
The Lynx were last year’s Class 1A state champion and have played in a state title game five years in a row. For the first time in seven years, there is no Hilmer starring at point guard for the Lynx, as Jake and Austin Hilmer are playing together at Upper Iowa University.
Multi-year starters like Dylan Kurt and Cade Haughenbury graduated from last year’s club, too. But this is a reload deal.
“What people don’t realize is first we lost Ryan Miller, nobody thought we would be any good after him,” Mike Hilmer said, referring to his former all-state guard, playing college ball at Augustana (S.D.). “Then we lost Jake Hilmer. Last year, we lost a bunch of guys. But somebody always steps up.
“I think Ben Wheatley is capable of stepping into that role, Mason Bechen is capable of stepping into that role. The one reason I’ve always felt guys are ready to step into that role is the style we play. You either get better that year before, or your life’s miserable. Every practice we’re trying to kick your rear end. I think that helps.”
North Linn (3-0) got down early to a very good Class 2A team in Beckman (1-1) but regrouped for a 21-12 lead after a quarter. It was 37-25 at halftime and 53-41 after three quarters.
The Lynx lead stretched to as many as 22 points in the fourth.
“They’ve got a really good team,” said Beckman Coach Mike Molony. “It’s not like they just press. They’ve got good athletes, and they all can dribble, and they almost all can shoot. They all can attack the rim. They’re going to wear on you defensively.”
Wheatley had a game-high 19 points, followed by super sophomore guard Bechen with 16. All-stater Tate Haughenbury got into foul trouble and finished with 13 points, North Linn proving it could play chunks of a game with him on the bench.
Junior Ty Pflughaupt added 11 points. He and Bechen were bit players last season, but combine with Wheatley and Haughenbury to give North Linn four legit scorers.
“I feel like every year there is always somebody we lose that is very important to this team,” Wheatley said. “Yet we keep finding our way back down there (to the state tournament). I think we can do that again.”
“We need to be more physical,” Coach Hilmer said. “We need to be a little more vocal. And I don’t only mean defensively and stuff, but we need somebody in practice that gets after people and gets you straight. And we still need help on our half-court offense. Though we did a pretty good job tonight. Biggest weakness is just physicality and experience a little bit.”
North Linn did a good job on Beckman all-stater Padraig Gallagher, holding him to 14 points. Aiden Wessels led the Blazers with 15.
Beckman slides from the Wamac Conference to the River Valley Conference this season, and it definitely will be a factor.
“We’ve got a lot of really good athletes, I’ll tell you that,” Molony said. “We can get out and guard. And Paddy’s pretty special.”
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