MARION — Linn-Mar’s boys’ basketball team slipped past Cedar Rapids Jefferson in a game about three weeks ago that left few in Lionland happy.
It was a win but perhaps not a deserved one, considering Linn-Mar was outplayed, outhustled, out-everythinged most of the way. Head coach Chris Robertson let his guys know postgame in the locker room that their play needed to improve pronto, that their legacy at the school was on the line, that they could choose to be good or so-so.
Challenge extended and accepted.
A 66-62 victory Saturday afternoon over Class 4A second-ranked Waukee was a statement that these Lions are a serious contender for the state tournament next month. That is seven consecutive wins for Linn-Mar (10-4).
“Ever since that (Jefferson) game, I think we realized that we have to bring energy right away,” said Linn-Mar’s Trey Hutcheson, whose game-high 24 points included 19 in the second half. “I think if you look at our game last night (against Waterloo East) and the game today, we jumped out to big leads right away. Because when we’re playing harder, we’re shooting with confidence a little bit more, we’re looking for each other’s shots a little more. We’ve won seven in a row, so everything is kind of clicking right now. We are playing really well and with a lot of confidence.”
Linn-Mar led for all but about 30 seconds of this one, rolling to a 17-3 lead in the first quarter, seeing Waukee close within four points at halftime, then streaking back ahead by 15 in the third quarter. Waukee (15-1) made one final push late in the fourth, getting within one twice in the final minute, but the Lions held on.
Linn-Mar played without starting wing Jaren Nelson, who injured an ankle Friday night against Waterloo East. Waukee lost outstanding point guard Noah Hart to a season-ending knee injury two weeks ago and also was without starting guard Andrew Curran.
“They obviously are a great, great team with Hart,” Robertson said. “That’s an unfortunate thing that he’s done. But that’s still a really, really good team without him.”
Point guard John Steffen stepped up significantly for Linn-Mar, with a 17-point, five-assist, five-rebound game here. Greg Hall added 16 points.
Sophomore guard Tucker DeVries (son of Drake head coach Darian) had five treys and 17 points for Waukee. Neither team was especially pleased with the officiating, as Hutcheson was given a technical foul for saying something in the second half, as was a Waukee assistant coach.
Things got chippy and chirpy. But it was a big win for the home team.
“It’s a lot like when we beat Iowa City West earlier in the season,” Hutcheson said. “The previous two years when I’ve played, we’ve always been able to beat the teams we should have beaten and hang around the teams that are supposed to beat us, without getting over that hump. This shows that the West game wasn’t a fluke.”
“I think we’re growing, we’re maturing,” Robertson said. “We wouldn’t have won that game today three weeks ago. Especially with Jaren not playing. I don’t think we would have held on and won that game. We had good composure down the stretch, made some free throws and handled their run, which we knew was coming. Yeah, that was a good win for us.”
WAUKEE (62): Payton Sandfort 2-5 1-2 6, Dylan Jones 3-4 5-6 11, Michael Vicente 3-7 8-8 14, Tucker DeVries 6-11 0-1 17, Dante Jenkins 3-7 3-3 9, Jackson Payne 2-5 0-0 5, Trey Schaller 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 19-39 17-20 62.
LINN-MAR (66): Trey Hutcheson 6-11 10-12 24, Cam Nelson 0-2 0-0 0, Hayden Passmore 3-4 1-2 7, Greg Hall 5-9 4-6 16, John Steffen 4-9 6-8 17, Brady Klahn 1-2 0-0 2, Will Zahradnik 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 18-37 21-28 66.
Halftime — Linn-Mar 25, Waukee 21. 3-point goals — Waukee 7-21 (Sandfort 1-4, Vicente 0-2, DeVries 5-10, Jenkins 0-1, Payne 1-4), Linn-Mar 6-20 (Hutcheson 2-5, Nelson 0-2, Hall 2-6, Steffen 3-6, Klahn 0-1). Rebounds — Waukee 16 (Jones 6), Linn-Mar 25 (Passmore 6). Total fouls — Waukee 17, Linn-Mar 19. Fouled out — None. Technical fouls — Waukee bench, Hutcheson. Turnovers — Waukee 11, Linn-Mar 10.
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