DES MOINES — It really couldn’t have ended any other way.
One of the best basketball players you have seen in Eastern Iowa for awhile, a kid who set multiple state records. He and three other seniors compiling a 102-4 career record.
They had to go out with a state championship. Just had to.
Which they did.
“It was a mountain,” Jake Hilmer said, after North Linn won the Class 2A title Friday afternoon, 60-41, over Boyden-Hull at Wells Fargo Arena. “We were climbing the mountain the whole time.”
The Lynx went undefeated in 2016’s regular season, upset in district play. They made it here in 2017, placing third in 1A.
They didn’t lose last season until the 1A championship game, and it was 25 consecutive wins this season. Now make that 26, and the school’s first boys’ basketball title.
A dream come true. And a relief, too.
“It’s a relief because we knew we could win it,” said North Linn’s David Seber. “We could have won it last year, but it just didn’t come out right. We all knew what we had to do, all knew we could win it. We worked like hell to get here.”
“Everyone was expecting us to win it,” North Linn’s Carter Johnson said. “They expected us to win it last year. So to actually come out on top, yeah, it’s a relief.”
Hilmer, Seber, Johnson and Trevor Boge are the seniors, and they all played big roles in beating Boyden-Hull (24-3).
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Seber was the defensive guy, holding down B-H’s Keyton Moser, who was named to the 1A all-tournament team. Johnson was the unsung guy, making both of his field-goal attempts in the decisive second half and doing the little things.
Boge was the clutch guy, making three consecutive 3-pointers as part of a 11-0 run at the start of the third quarter that helped North Linn extend a one-point halftime lead into a double-digit lead. Hilmer was, well, Hilmer, scoring a team-high 20 points, adding eight rebounds, eight assists and four steals.
He finishes things up the only player in state history with over 2,000 career points and over 1,000 career assists. His 1,106 assists are a state record, as are his 534 career steals.
“It was more emotional for me to see Jake win it,” said his dad, North Linn Co-Coach Mike Hilmer. “I (hear) all these people say ‘Should he play Division I? Is he good enough? Yes, he’s good enough to play Division I.’ I’m just so proud of him. He just plays and tries to prove people wrong over and over and over ... He’s been the best player on our team for four years, and, in my opinion, he has been one of the best players in the state for four years.”
Jake has signed to play hoops and baseball at Upper Iowa.
“It took a lot of guys to put us in this position,” he said. “A lot of people stepping up tonight, especially. I think I was there for my teammates through the tournament trail, and they were there for me tonight when I was struggling a little bit. Other guys stepped up and hit some big shots. Like I just told the guys in the locker room, 14 guys just became champions, not just a couple.”
North Linn outscored Boyden-Hull in the third quarter, 16-4, with every point coming from someone other than Hilmer. The Lynx were known for their 90-plus point-per-game average and huge point-spread margins but comparatively slogged their way through their final five postseason games against high-quality competition.
They played tremendous defense, including here, holding Boyden-Hull without a field goal for 11:34 in the first half. Only Spencer Te Slaa scored in double digits for the Comets with 10.
“We talked at halftime about doing some things we normally don’t do,” Mike Hilmer said. “We rely on Jake a lot, they were taking him out of the game. Smart play by any coach. So what we did was start using Jake on some back screens and stuff to get some buckets back at the basket. Very proud of the way our kids executed those, because it’s a different guy that has to pass it. It’s a different guy screening, a different guy catching it. They did it to perfection.”
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This was the second state title for North Linn’s other Co-Coach Bob Hilmer, Mike’s father and Jake and freshman Austin Hilmer’s grandfather. He’s the state’s all-time winningest coach.
“We played well all year,” he said. “We really stepped it up there in the second half.”
“We have really competed our tails off,” Jake Hilmer said. “I can’t think of any group of guys who deserve this more.”
AT WELLS FARGO ARENA
BOYDEN-HULL (41): Beau DeJongh 1-3 0-0 3, Spencer Te Slaa 3-8 2-2 10, Brett Van Der Wilt 1-1 0-0 3, Carter Francis 4-7 0-0 9, Keyton Moser 1-6 1-2 3, Josh Heitritter 2-6 2-4 6, Andrew Frick 1-1 0-0 3, Tanner Te Slaa 2-4 0-0 4, Dylan Miller 0-0 0-0 0, Marcus Kelderman 0-1 0-0 0, Dayton Brunsting 0-0 0-0 0, Kody Noble 0-0 0-0 0, Jonathon Te Slaa 0-0 0-0 0.
NORTH LINN (60): Austin Miller 3-4 2-2 8, Trevor Boge 7-9 0-0 17, Carter Johnson 2-2 0-1 4, Jake Hilmer 5-14 10-11 20, David Seber 3-8 0-1 8, Austin Hilmer 1-3 0-0 3, Gunner Vanourney 0-0 0-0 0, Parker Bechen 0-0 0-0 0, Cade Haughenbury 0-0 0-0 0, Kaleb Kurt 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 21-40 12-15 60.
Halftime — North Linn 21, Boyden-Hull 20. 3-point goals — Boyden-Hull 6-17 (Van Der Wilt 1-1, Francis 1-4, DeJongh 1-1, S. Te Slaa 2-4, Moser 0-2, Kelderman 0-1, Heitritter 0-1, Frick 1-1, T. Te Slaa 0-2), North Linn 6-13 (J. Hilmer 0-2, Seber 2-6, Boge 3-3, A. Hilmer 1-2). Rebounds — Boyden-Hull 27 (S. Te Slaa 7), North Linn 18 (J. Hilmer 8). Total fouls — Boyden-Hull 17, North Linn 10. Fouled out — None. Assists — Boyden-Hull 11 (Francis, S. Te Slaa 3), North Linn 14 (J. Hilmer 8). Turnovers — Boyden-Hull 19, North Linn 7.
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