Prep Basketball

Brian Wheatley and North Linn girls' basketball check final box with state championship

226 wins in the past 10 seasons, and now a 2A state title

North Linn players gather around Coach Brian Wheatley before their Class 2A championship game with Osage at the girls' s
North Linn players gather around Coach Brian Wheatley before their Class 2A championship game with Osage at the girls’ state basketball tournament at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines on Saturday. The Lynx won, 66-42. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — Now, there’s nothing missing from North Linn’s decade of excellence.

Nothing at all.

“We’ve been close,” Coach Brian Wheatley said. “We’ve had some good teams.”

Some great teams. And now, a championship team.

North Linn reached the promised land Saturday, whipping Osage 66-42 for the Class 2A girls’ basketball title at Wells Fargo Arena. It culminated a 10-year run of 20-plus wins and — prior to Saturday — various levels of heartache.

“I’m so happy we were able to finish it,” senior Abby Flanagan said.

In 15 years as head coach, Wheatley has crafted a record of 304-81. That includes a sparkling mark of 226-24 through the past 10 years.

The Lynx have reached the state tournament five times in the last seven years. Before Saturday, the peak had been a runner-up finish led by Miss Iowa Basketball Nicole Miller in 2015.

This current crew lost in the state quarterfinals in 2017 and 2019, the regional finals in 2018.

“It felt so good to win that first one (against Western Christian),” Grace Flanagan said. “We were able to come from behind, and in the past, we would have struggled with that.”

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Wheatley said, somewhat emotionally, that Saturday’s glory extended far beyond the current players and staff.

“A lot of people had a hand in this,” he said. “The kids who came before and laid the groundwork. A lot of people put a lot of work and a lot of pride into this. The kids worked their tails off.

“It wasn’t always smooth sailing. But there was a lot of heart and guts, and I couldn’t be happier.”

Wheatley was happy for the kids. And the kids were thrilled for Wheatley and assistant Kevin Goedken.

“They believed in every single one of us,” Grace Flanagan said. “It’s great to get this for them.”

Miller took to Twitter after the game:

“Can’t think of two people that deserve this one more than (Wheatley and Goedken). So proud of this group of girls for doing something none of us could, but man, was it about dang time.”

Comments: (319) 368-8857; jeff.linder@thegazette.com

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