CEDAR RAPIDS — They won a game Tuesday. They won again Friday night for two in a row.
They win Saturday, and that’s called a winning streak.
Apologies to Lou Brown for stealing his line from the movie “Major League.” But that’s where the Linn-Mar Lions are after rallying to clip Cedar Rapids Xavier, 57-46, before a loud and raucous house at Xavier’s Ron Thillen Gymnasium.
“These three games are against tough opponents, too,” said Linn-Mar’s John Steffen. “If we could get three wins, it would be so good for our momentum. It’s already a great week, but we’ve got to focus on coming out tomorrow and getting that third win. That would be huge for us going into the second half of the season.”
That’s two straight Ws against Metro rivals for Linn-Mar (6-6), with the first coming against Cedar Rapids Kennedy. There’s a game on tap Saturday against West Des Moines Valley as part of the Wells Fargo Advisors Shootout at Cedar Rapids Kennedy.
“I think the guys are getting a little more confidence,” said Linn-Mar Coach Chris Robertson. “Kennedy had been playing really well, and Xavier is playing better. Those inner-city games are fun, they’re intense, and that builds confidence when you can win those.”
Xavier (6-8) scored the first seven points of this one and led all the way into the fourth quarter. A Cameron Guenther turnaround baseline jumper tied it for Linn-Mar, 43-43, with 5:15 to go, then Steffen had a three-point play off a lane drive just 23 seconds later to put the Lions up for what turned out to be good.
The final score in that fourth quarter was Linn-Mar 22, Xavier 3.
“I think Linn-Mar just did a great job doing what they do,” said Xavier Coach Mike Freeman. “We had some open looks. Credit to our kids, they were doing what we asked them to do. We didn’t get some to fall. As coach, I thought I did a horrible job in the fourth quarter for the guys. I’ve got to do a better job as coach to get them into what we need, to call a timeout during runs.”
“It was weird,” Robertson said. “We did not execute very well all night, on both ends. We had things we wanted to do, and we just didn’t do them. Sometimes the environment gets to you a little bit. But, late, I thought we executed everything we called down the stretch. The guys executed really, really well. Then it comes down to making a few shots, and we did.”
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Steffen finished with a game-high 25 points, including a 10-for-11 performance from the free-throw line. Wing Brady Klahn also was huge with 16 points.
Jaylon Moses led Xavier with 13 points, but he had just four in the second half as Linn-Mar put the clamps on him and just about every other Saint. Xavier also plays Saturday in the WFA Shootout, against Charles City.
“It’s just the rivalry: Xavier and Linn-Mar,” Steffen said. “You’re down, we’ve got to bring everything we had. You hate losing to these guys. Luckily I’ve been on some good teams and have been able to go 4-0 against them. But none of them have been easy. It’s down to the wire every game.”
AT CEDAR RAPIDS XAVIER
LINN-MAR (57): Will Zahradnik 1-2 1-2 3, Brady Klahn 6-12 1-2 16, John Steffen 7-12 10-11 25, Evan Martin 0-5 0-0 0, Cameron Guenther 2-3 0-0 5, Luke Passmore 1-2 0-0 2, Pearson Martin 2-5 2-3 6, Andrew Knipper 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 19-41 14-18 57.
C.R. XAVIER (46): Davis Wagner 2-8 1-3 6, Jaylon Moses 3-10 7-7 13, Mitch Helmkamp 2-8 3-5 8, Tre McCrary 0-4 0-0 0, Jacob Beckmann 3-9 0-0 9, Nick Hansel 0-1 0-0 0, Max Kaiser 0-1 0-0 0, Jack Breitbach 1-1 1-2 3, Peyton Shannon 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 14-47 13-19 46.
Halftime — Xavier 26, Linn-Mar 20. 3-point goals — Linn-Mar 5-20 (Klahn 3-7, Steffen 1-4, E. Martin 0-4, Guenther 1-2, P. Martin 0-2), Xavier 5-24 (Wagner 1-3, Moses 0-4, Helmkamp 1-5, McCrary 0-1, Beckmann 3-8, Kaiser 0-2). Rebounds — Linn-Mar 34 (Klahn, Steffen 9), Xavier 29 (Moses 9). Total fouls — Linn-Mar 15, Xavier 14. Fouled out — None. Turnovers — Linn-Mar 9, Xavier 6.
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