MARION — They ended up getting two great looks: one planned and one unplanned. The unplanned one went in.
Caden Stoffer had it, a 3-pointer from the high wing with under a second remaining that gave the Cedar Rapids Prairie Hawks a 45-44 win Tuesday night over Linn-Mar at the Lions den.
The Class 4A eighth-ranked Hawks are 4-0 thanks to the junior guard’s clutch shot. Down two with 19 seconds left, Prairie perfectly worked a play for sophomore guard Jake Walter, whose open trey attempt at the top of the circle failed to fall.
The ball deflected off the rim left and toward the sideline out of bounds, only to be saved to a teammate by a leaping Jonathan Mullins. The ball was quickly kicked out to Stoffer, who fired.
“We got all we could ask for,” Stoffer said. “We got a good (initial) look, an open shot. It just didn’t go in. But we got a great offensive rebound, kicked it out, and lucky it ended up in my hands ... (The shot) felt great coming out of my hand.”
Prairie players celebrated en masse underneath the opposing basket with the Hawks student section, which stormed the court as the buzzer sounded.
“We said we were down two, and if that (Walter’s shot) was there, we’d take it. Try and go for the win there,” said Prairie Coach Jeremy Rickertsen. “If they cheated to it, we said we’d try and slip it to one of the guys going to the basket and try and get the two to tie it and extend the game. Jake got a good look, missed it, Jon Mullins hustled to the offensive rebound, we kicked it out and ...”
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He didn’t finish the sentence and didn’t need to. Linn-Mar (2-1) had as much as an eight-point lead in the third quarter and led by five, 35-30, going to the fourth.
Brady Klahn’s 15-foot jumper with two minutes to go put the Lions up 43-42. John Steffen made one of two free throws with 19.2 seconds left for a two-point spread.
“We didn’t finish the game,” Linn-Mar Coach Chris Robertson said. “We missed a lot of free throws, shot 50 percent from the line (7 of 14). We gave up 14 offensive rebounds. You take care of a few of those things, and it doesn’t come down to that last shot. At the end of the day, we had a lead with 19 seconds, got a miss, didn’t get the rebound, and Stoffer hits a big shot. I told our guys that sometimes you just have to tip your hat and move one. That’s what we’ve got to do.”
Steffen and Dylan Decklever led Linn-Mar with 14 points each. Max Lampe had 14 for Prairie, which has surprised a lot of people in the early going.
The Hawks graduated a ton of talent from last season, including Keegan and Kris Murray, who are headed to the University of Iowa.
“We saw an opportunity at the beginning of the season because we were slept on,” Stoffer said. “We saw it as an opportunity to work hard, work hard in practice and get everybody better. That would translate to the court (for games).”
“These kids in the offseason played a lot together,” Rickertsen said. “When we played in open gym, team camps, we’d see flashes of really good things. That gives you hope. The senior class, led by Max Lampe, is very motivated to continue the winning we have established over the last couple of years. That has carried over to some of the other kids. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t surprised. But at the same time, I knew we could be good.”
CEDAR RAPIDS PRAIRIE (45): Max Lampe 4-8 5-5 14, Gabe Burkle 2-6 1-2 6, Elijah Ward 0-4 0-0 0, Caden Stoffer 3-8 1-2 8, Jonathan Mullins 2-4 0-0 5, Jake Walter 4-13 0-0 10, Garrett Pientok 1-3 0-0 2, Jackson Nove 0-0 0-0 0, Johnny Joens 0-1 0-0 0, Hank Wagemester 0-0 0-0 0, Caleb Miller 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 16-49 7-9 45.
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LINN-MAR (44): John Steffen 4-12 4-8 14, Will Zahradnik 1-2 0-1 2, Dylan Decklever 6-11 0-0 14, Brady Klahn 4-10 2-3 11, Cameron Guenther 0-3 0-0 0, Andrew Knipper 0-4 1-2 1, Carter Schminke 0-2 0-0 0, Jaxon Shelby 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 16-46 7-14 44. Halftime: Linn-Mar 16, Prairie 15. 3-point goals — Prairie 6-19 (Lampe 1-2, Burkle 1-2, Ward 0-3, Stoffer 1-2, Mullins 1-2, Walter 2-7, Joens 0-1), Linn-Mar 5-19 (Steffen 2-6, Decklever 2-6, Klahn 1-5, Guenther 0-1, Knipper 0-1). Rebounds — Prairie 35 (Lampe 7), Linn-Mar 33 (Zahradnik 7). Total fouls — Prairie 15, Linn-Mar 13. Fouled out — None. Turnovers — Prairie 13, Linn-Mar 10.
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