116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CASCADE - The defending Class 2A state champs will indeed have an opportunity to defend their title.
Led by freshman Kamryn Kurt, No. 5 North Linn took down No. 6 Bellevue, 54-36, on Wednesday in a girls' basketball regional final at Cascade High School.
Kurt led the Lynx (21-2) in scoring with 23 points, converting on 5 of 7 3-point attempts. Her performance was particularly impressive, not just because she's a freshman, but also because she battled through a variety of ailments.
'The thing about Kamryn is she's hurt,” North Linn head coach Brian Wheatley said. 'Her muscles are sore, she's got some ab issues and her back's bothering her, but it doesn't slow her down. She's just a warrior. She came out and had a big game for us tonight.”
Kurt couldn't take all of the credit for Wednesday's win over the Comets (20-2).
'It's my teammates,” Kurt said. 'My teammates work 100 percent, all the time. They want to give me the ball and they work hard to get us extra passes. And that's just what it's all about.”
'She's (Kurt) going to be awful good,” Wheatley said. 'She doesn't play like a freshman. She's ahead of schedule. She steps up in the big moments.”
After graduating five seniors from last year's team, a youthful Lynx team will return to Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, making their sixth appearance in the state tournament in the last eight years.
'It doesn't ever get old,” Wheatley said. 'But honestly, we haven't even talked about defending our title. This is a brand new group of kids. We graduated five seniors from last year's team. We have two kids that played a lot in the postseason last year, otherwise everybody's brand new.”
While North Linn will bring youth to the state tournament, it will also have plenty of firepower.
The Lynx entered Wednesday's contest ranking first in Class 2A in several offensive categories, including effective field goal percentage, 3-point percentage, 3-pointers per game, field goal percentage and assists. And the Lynx were firing on all cylinders Wednesday.
North Linn was 7-of-11 from beyond the arc in the first half, and finished the game 12-of-20.
'We had to execute,” Wheatley said. 'We had to keep our spacing and our ball movement on offense. We hit some shots and our kids stepped up and played really well.”
Wednesday's contest was the state's only regional final, in any class, to feature two top-eight teams. Bellevue's defense ranked fourth in 2A, allowing just 32.9 points per game, while North Linn's offense ranked second, averaging 63.8 points per game.
'They (the Comets) do a lot of things well,” Wheatley said. 'It's not like you can just take one thing away and that would be it.”
Part of the Lynx's game plan included containing Teresa Paulsen, Class 2A's leader in blocks, who averages 4.3 per game.
'We had to start with the Paulsen girl inside and try to do a couple things to try to take her out of it,” Wheatley said. 'I think for the most part we did. We had to have help in there, we couldn't guard her one-on-one, because she's got really good footwork and she's strong.”
Paulsen finished with 12 points, but finished well below her average in blocks, tallying just two.
North Linn will face No. 4 Nodaway Valley (23-0) in a quarterfinal game at 9 p.m. Tuesday.
'Our expectations are to go and prove people wrong,” Kurt said.