CEDAR RAPIDS — It has been six years since the Linn-Mar Lions made the boys’ state basketball tournament. That’s almost as unbelievable as the nine straight years they made it before that.
“I’m ready to go back,” said Coach Chris Robertson.
It appears to be a manageable substate for Linn-Mar, which opens Class 4A postseason play Monday night at Cedar Rapids Jefferson. Of course, the J-Hawks can say the same thing.
They beat Linn-Mar in the lone regular-season meeting between the teams, 55-54. The Linn-Mar/Jefferson matchup is one of many in 4A and Class 3A.
“When that came out, we were pleased to see where we were, just to know that we had the opportunity in our substate to potentially win three games and get to Des Moines,” said Jefferson Coach Brandon Horman. “But, obviously, with that, anybody has a chance to come out of it, but anybody has a chance that first night to go home, too.”
Jefferson (9-12) is an undersized team that spreads the court and looks for dribble penetration and kickouts. Linn-Mar is 11-11, ending the regular season on a three-game win streak.
The winner plays Friday at top-seeded Pleasant Valley (19-2). The other side of the bracket sees Burlington (0-21) at Davenport North (14-7) on Monday night, with that winner taking on Joe Wieskamp and Muscatine (14-7).
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The substate final is Tuesday, Feb. 27, at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids. At first glance, it appears five of the six teams in Substate 4 can make a legit claim to make it to state.
It ought to be exciting to find out who ultimately survives.
“Most people don’t realize it is so hard to just get there,” Robertson said. “Even when you have a good team. We went nine times in a row, I think seven years for me as a head coach, that’s crazy. A lot of times I think people, the fans, take it for granted. There is no harder game all year than that substate final.”
Two-time defending 3A champ Cedar Rapids Xavier hosts a doubleheader that begins with Center Point-Urbana against Benton Community in the 6:30 p.m. opener. The Saints then play Grinnell (1-20).
Marion (11-10) plays Maquoketa (9-12) in a 3A substate opener at Manchester. West Delaware (16-5) also plays Anamosa (3-17).
Back in 4A, Cedar Rapids Washington (8-13) hosts Iowa City High (5-16), and Cedar Rapids Kennedy (9-12) hosts Ottumwa (6-15) in substate openers. Iowa City West is the favorite in that Substate 5.
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