DES MOINES — When you’re never behind in the fourth quarter, it’s difficult to know how you’re going to react when it finally happens.
It finally happened Wednesday night for North Linn, and the Lynx reacted just fine.
Jake Hilmer scored 26 points, including hitting a go-ahead 3-pointer with about four minutes left as Class 2A’s top-ranked and top-seeded team overcame Van Meter, 54-47, in a state tournament semifinal at Wells Fargo Arena.
North Linn had trailed only once in the second half all season, that coming in the district finals against Dyersville Beckman. The Lynx hadn’t been behind in the fourth since last year’s Class 1A state championship game against Grand View Christian.
“For one, we go through situations in practice all the time, simulating close games,” Hilmer said. “I think that benefits us a lot. But we’ve played a lot of games growing up that were close. Just because they haven’t been as close consistently the last couple of years, we’ve grown up playing a lot of AAU, a lot of other games together. That’s where the poise, the togetherness comes from. Just another day in the ballpark for us. This is a tough team.”
North Linn (25-0) will play, eighth-ranked and third-seeded Boyden-Hull (23-2) in Friday’s finals at 4:10 p.m., making it a Tri-Rivers Conference duo in championship games. Alburnett, which North Linn beat by 30 points in the regular season, will play Friday for the 1A title.
This is the second year in a row the Lynx for play for gold. They lost to Grand View Christian in 1A last year but bumped up a class this year.
“Really proud of these guys for getting to the finals again,” said Co-Coach Mike Hilmer. “We’re in 2A, everybody says our conference isn’t any good. I think we’ve proven our conference is good.”
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Mike Hilmer was given a technical foul for voicing his displeasure at a foul call on Jake with a little over two minutes left in the third quarter and North Linn ahead, 36-29. That seemed to energize Van Meter (22-3), which made the two subsequent free throws, the beginning of a 9-0 run that put it ahead, 38-36.
“I deserved it,” Mike Hilmer said. “I used the word ‘terrible,’ and I shouldn’t have. I didn’t swear or anything crazy like that. But if you used that word, you’ll usually get T'd up.”
A bucket by Trevor Boge quickly tied things back up. The teams traded treys, then Jake Hilmer hit another 3 with 3:53 left to put North Linn up for what turned out to be good, 44-41.
A defensive stop followed, with Jake Hilmer hitting freshman brother, Austin, on a neat transition pass that led to a layup and a 46-41 Lynx lead.
“You’ve just got to stay calm,” said Boge, who had 15 points. “You can’t panic and start taking bad shots. I’m not going to lie, I was a little nervous. But you’ve got to keep working for good shots.”
“These seniors, they’ve obviously had a lot of lopsided games in their careers,” Austin Hilmer said. “But when you get down here, you know there’s a couple of close games. They’ve been in a couple of them before, and they know what to do in these big situations. They came through for us.”
Anthony Potthoff led Van Meter with 15 points, though it was 6-foot-9 center Ryan Schmitt that gave North Linn the biggest problems, no pun intended. He had 10 points, 10 rebounds and six blocked shots, taking away most of the Lynx’s normal production from Jake Hilmer drives through the paint.
“He’s a great player,” Boge said. “We hadn’t played anyone with that size all year, so we knew it was going to be difficult. But Austin Miller and Carter Johnson both did a really good job. About as good as you could ask for someone that size.”
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VAN METER (47): Anthony Potthoff 6-13 2-3 15, Spencer Lamb 5-12 2-5 14, Ryan Schmitt 5-9 0-0 10, Parker Fryar 0-1 0-0 0, Chris Schreck 0-1 0-0 0, Zach Madden 2-4 0-0 4, Harrison Smith 0-0 0-0 0, Ian Abrahamson 0-0 0-0 0, Brett Berg 2-3 0-0 4. Totals 20-43 4-8 47.
NORTH LINN (54): Carter Johnson 0-1 0-0 0, Austin Miller 0-2 0-0 0, Trevor Boge 6-9 1-2 15, Jake Hilmer 9-17 5-7 26, David Seber 1-12 0-2 3, Austin Hilmer 3-7 2-2 10. Totals 19-48 8-13 54.
Halftime — North Linn 30, Van Meter 21. 3-point goals — Van Meter 3-10 (Potthoff 1-5, Lamb 2-3, Fryar 0-1, Madden 0-1), North Linn 8-24 (J. Hilmer 3-6, Seber 1-10, Boge 2-2, A. Hilmer 2-6). Rebounds — Van Meter 31 (Schmitt 10, Lamb 9), North Linn 27 (Boge 7). Total fouls — Van Meter 16, North Linn 10. Fouled out — None. Technical foul — North Linn bench. Assists — Van Meter 12 (Fryar, Schmitt 3), North Linn 12 (J. Hilmer 6). Turnovers — Van Meter 14, North Linn 5.
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