MARION — Chris Robertson has seen plenty of close games early in the boys’ basketball season.
Linn-Mar senior guard Greg Hall made sure his coach didn’t have to sweat through another one down the stretch Friday night. The Lions built a 15-point lead in the fourth quarter en route to a 65-54 upset of Class 4A No. 1 Iowa City West in a Mississippi Valley Conference game before a loud crowd at Linn-Mar High School.
The victory moved the Lions to 2-2 overall, 2-1 in MVC play. Linn-Mar lost a tight game to Bettendorf in its opener, then survived a five-overtime contest to top Xavier, before losing a lead late last Tuesday in a loss at Prairie.
Robertson had an inkling the Lions would be ready to play against top-ranked West after what he saw in practice Thursday night.
“I just love how we competed tonight,” Roberston said. “We talked in practice (Thursday night) and told them, ‘if you don’t believe you are going to win, we’re wasting our time.’
“We got after it (in practice) and I thought we were really focused,” he continued. “The first four minutes I thought would be key and our guys were really locked in.
Hall scored a game-high 21 points, including two straight baskets in the third quarter, to stifle a West rally that saw the visitors cut a nine-point halftime deficit to just two at 41-39 on a 3-point basket from Marcus Morgan.
The first from Hall was a short jumper near the basket and the second was a mid-range jumper from the lane.
“I was just trying to get to the lane,” Hall said. “They were coming after us really hard and I was able to hit a couple of shots.”
Hall’s baskets, combined with two Hayden Passmore free throws, gave the Lions a 47-41 lead after three quarters.
West (4-1, 2-1) was in deep foul trouble with the Lions getting into the double bonus early in the fourth quarter. Hall was the main beneficiary, hitting all six of his attempts in the fourth quarter. Linn-Mar converted 12-of-16 from the line as a team in the final eight minutes.
“You just have to step up to the line and hit them when you get the chance,” Hall said. “We were able to do that.”
Linn-Mar got balanced scoring behind Hall. Jaren Nelson scored eight points early and finished with 13, Trey Hutcheson added 11 and Passmore finished with 10.
“It was nice to finish one,” Robertson said. “We’ve been in three one-possession games and it was crazy that this one wasn’t a one-possession game. We did a lot of good things down the stretch.”
Patrick McCaffery led the Trojans with 19 points despite being hounded all night by a collapsing Linn-Mar defense. Braden Adcock chipped in with 11 for the Trojans.
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The Lions return to action on Tuesday night at home against Western Dubuque while West will host Cedar Rapids Washington.