VINTON — If you just looked at the records and the rankings and expected a blowout, you weren’t really paying attention.
Anyone who knew anything could have told you Tuesday night’s Class 1A district final between No. 1 North Linn and Alburnett would be close and down to the wire.
“This was not a team I wanted to play,” North Linn’s Dylan Kurt said, after his Lynx survived, 53-46.
North Linn improved to 24-0 and moved to a 1A substate final Saturday night against Meskwaki (20-3), but it took quite the effort. Alburnett had the lead in an always tight game, 33-32, going to the fourth quarter.
The Pirates came into this one just 13-10, though that was incredibly misleading. They dealt with COVID-19 issues during the season and got a late start to practice at the beginning of the season because the school was virtual-only learning wise for awhile.
Things came together late.
“I told somebody today, if I get interviewed after the game and we lose, they’re going to ask you how you got upset, and I’m going to say it’s not an upset,” said North Linn Coach Mike Hilmer. “That’s a heck of a good ball team that had some COVID issues and had played really good against some really good teams. And they’re well coached.”
North Linn went on an 8-1 run at the start of the fourth to grab the lead for good. Kurt had a couple of baskets in the telltale stretch, set up a Cade Haughenbury layup in the half-court with a neat interior feed and threw an outlet pass after a rebound to Ben Wheatley for a transition layup and a 40-34 lead.
“We just ended up making some big shots,” Kurt said.
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“Honestly everything we were trying on offense wasn’t working," Hilmer said. "Part of that was we are used to (point guard) Austin (Hilmer) creating a lot, and he wasn’t creating. Part of it was we didn’t execute very well. We decided to put the ball in Dylan’s hands and use Austin as a screener. It got us three buckets that were huge.”
Tate Haughenbury led the Lynx with 15 points, with Kurt adding 14 and a team-best eight boards. Hunter Caves had a game-high 23 points for Alburnett, receiving a standing ovation from both schools’ fans after fouling out with seven seconds left.
Caves missed all of last season for the Pirates because of a knee injury after playing a vital role with classmates Reed Stallman and Shane Neighbor in Alburnett’s run to a 1A state runner-up finish two years ago.
“I’m going to miss these guys, the work ethic,” said an emotional Alburnett Coach Jeff Christopherson said. “The bar has been set now. This group was so important because they got us to the state tournament for the first time.
“I’m so proud of these young men. They are going to have a lot of success in the future. I truly believe the world is in good hands with those young men. I just truly believe that.”
ALBURNETT (46): Reed Stallman 1-4 1-4 3, Andrew Ossman 4-9 3-4 14, Shane Neighbor 1-5 1-3 3, Kale Rose 0-4 0-0 0, Hunter Caves 10-21 0-0 23, Mason Neighbor 1-4 0-0 3, Gavin Soukup 0-0 0-0 0. TOtals 17-47 5-11 46.
NORTH LINN (53): Cade Haughenbury 1-3 2-3 4, Tate Haughenbury 6-8 3-5 15, Dylan Kurt 6-12 1-2 14, Austin Hilmer 1-11 3-4 5, Ben Wheatley 4-7 2-2 10, Kaleb Kurt 2-3 0-0 4, Gunner Vanourney 0-1 1-2 1. TOtals 20-45 12-18 53.
Halftime — North Linn 24, Alburnett 22. 3-point goals — Alburnett 6-19 (Ossman 3-5, Rose 0-3, Caves 3-7, M. Neighbor 1-4), North Linn 1-9 (D. Kurt 1-3, Hilmer 0-3, Wheatley 0-2, Vanourney 0-1). Rebounds — Alburnett 31 (Stallman 9), North Linn 28 (D. Kurt 8). Total fouls — Alburnett 15, North Linn 13. Fouled out — Caves. Turnovers — Alburnett 15, North Linn 13.
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