Prep Basketball

North Linn has basically a brand new boys' basketball team, but expects to challenge again

Defending Class 2A state champs roll past Midland, 100-37, to improve early record to 2-0

North Linn's Austin Miller (12) pumps his fist after making a basket while being fouled during the second quarter of the
North Linn's Austin Miller (12) pumps his fist after making a basket while being fouled during the second quarter of their high school basketball game during the Wells Fargo Advisors Shootout at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids on Saturday, Jan. 12, 2019. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

TROY MILLS — There’s still a Miller in the lineup, still a Hilmer in the lineup and two of them on the coaching bench.

There’s still that full-court defensive pressure that is played at an incredibly frenentic pace that creates turnover after turnover after turnover. Those turnovers still lead to a flurry of points in a short amount of time and eventually lopsided wins.

North Linn successfully hunted another hundred Monday night over Tri-Rivers Conference foe Midland, ripping the Eagles, 100-47. The Lynx held a 32-12 lead after the first quarter, a 61-18 edge at halftime, and an 86-26 lead after three quarters.

This was just like last year in so many games for the undefeated Class 2A state champions. Only they’re doing it this time around with a virtually new team.

Only guard Austin Hilmer and senior small forward Austin Miller were big contributors to last year’s title team. Iowa Co-Mr. Basketball Jake Hilmer graduated and is doing considerable things at Division II Upper Iowa, while forward Trevor Boge and guard David Seber are also playing college basketball this winter at their respective schools.

Miller is a 6-foot-2 senior whose game has improved mightily these last two seasons. He had 24 points in North Linn’s opener last week against Calamus-Wheatland and 20 points and 12 rebounds against Midland.

The senior is surrounded by youth in the Lynx starting lineup. Specifically, four sophomores: Hilmer (who had 18 points here), Dylan Kurt (12 points), Gunner Vanourney (four 3s and 12 points) and Cade Haughenbury (8 points).

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“When we started this season, we knew losing guys like Jake and Boge and Seber and Carter Johnson, the young guys were going to have to come into a new role,” Miller said. “They had to learn the press, the little things about it. They’re starting to learn little things from the other night, when to rotate, just getting a lot better communication. You could just see it tonight, if we watch film, we’ll probably find a lot more communication and guys getting where they need to get. Everything is starting to come together. Everybody is starting to play a little better.”

Senior Parker Bechen comes off the bench and promises to give this team good minutes at forward. Junior Kaleb Kurt finished with 11 points against Midland off the bench, though he drew the ire of North Linn co-head coach Mike Hilmer in the first half when he missed a breakaway dunk and then hung on the rim long enough to be assessed a technical foul.

“If you’re going to show off, at least make the dang shot!” you could hear Coach Hilmer scream to Kurt.

Oh, well. Just a small blip in a very good performance.

“It’s hard to compare, just because the teams are so different,” Mike Hilmer said. “But we’re picking up the press real well for having a bunch of kids who haven’t played it. We haven’t really been tested, yet, so we’ll see. I’m pretty pleased with we’re starting four sophomores and how well they are playing together. How much they hustle. They listen and try to get better. There are days you get frustrated because they’re not working hard, and they think they are.

“You’re trying to get a kid to do something different when he can’t quite get it done. They are very willing to watch film and listen to you, take the criticism and try and put it into the game. I think we’re going to keep getting better and better.”

How much better?

“That I don’t know,” Coach Hilmer said. “We’ve got a lot of good shooters. We will be as good as our defense improves ... I still think we’re going to be pretty good.”

Hilmer’s son, Austin, agrees with his dad.

“We’re not afraid of anything,” Austin Hilmer said. “We lost a lot last year, but we’re not thinking we can’t do what we did last year. We know we have the same goal as last year, and we’re going to try and do the exact same thing. We don’t think about going out there and think about how we’re rebuilding. We look at it as reloading.”

It’ll be interesting how this team continues to improve and how much. Everyone around the program seems excited about the possibilities if that improvement is gradual throughout the 2019-20 season.

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“I think it’s everybody’s ideal place to get to,” Miller said, of Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines for the state tournament. “I think we can get there. We’ve got to keep getting better throughout the season, just like everyone else. You can’t slump around at the end. You’ve just got to slowly keep getting better, remember to keep doing the little things. Then whatever happens, happens.”

North Linn hosts Clinton Prince of Peace on Tuesday night and Bellevue Marquette on Friday night.

AT TROY MILLS

MIDLAND (37): Zain Sauer 2-8 2-2 7, Iziek Soper 0-1 4-8 4, Brit Martens 2-7 2-2 8, Wilson Buckhalter 0-3 0-0 0, Jensen Dodge 1-3 0-0 2, Sawyer Hansen 0-3 0-0 0, Alex Smith 0-0 0-0 0, Aaron Bixler 2-5 0-0 6, Connor Martin 2-2 0-0 6, Jamiesen Dodge 2-2 0-0 4, Jonny Thomsen 0-2 0-0 0, Ethan Milder 0-3 0-0 0. Totals 11-38 8-12 37.

NORTH LINN (100): Austin Miller 8-13 4-6 21, Dylan Kurt 5-6 1-2 12, Cade Haughenbury 3-4 2-2 8, Austin Hilmer 5-9 8-8 18, Gunner Vanourney 4-8 0-0 12, Parker Bechen 3-5 0-0 6, Kaleb Kurt 4-5 1-2 11, Tate Haughenbury 0-3 4-4 4, Jake Kurt 3-4 1-2 7, Ben Wheatley 1-5 0-0 2, Tate Collum 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 36-64 21-26 100.

Halftime — North Linn 61, Midland 18. 3-point goals — Midland 7-25 (Sauer 0-6, Soper 0-1, Martens 2-4, Buckhalter 0-3, Je. Dodge 0-1, Hansen 0-1, Bixler 2-4, Martin 2-2, Thomsen 0-2, Milder 0-1), North Linn 8-21 (Miller 1-2, D. Kurt 1-1, C. Haughenbury 0-1, Hilmer 0-2, Vanourney 4-7, K. Kurt 2-2, T. Haughenbury 0-1, J. Kurt 0-1, Wheatley 0-2, Collum 0-2). Rebounds — Midland 21 (Martens, Hansen 4), North Linn 40 (Miller 12). Total fouls — Midland 11, North Linn 7. Fouled out — None. Turnovers — Midland 29, North Linn 8).

Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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