Redhawks find a way around G-R
CONRAD – The Redhawks executed their defensive plan to a T.
It was the offense that needed to catch up to speed.
Finally finding the shots and tempo to its liking in the second half, the sixth-ranked North Tama boys basketball team pulled away late for a 50-38 victory over Gladbrook-Reinbeck in the Class 1A District 8 final Friday.
The Redhawks (24-1) advance to play Iowa Mennonite (22-2) in the Substate 4 final tonight at 7 p.m. in Van Horne. IMS defeated Lynnville-Sully 58-53 Friday.
A win tonight would clinch North Tama’s first-ever berth in the Iowa Boys State Basketball Tournament at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines beginning March 4.
But first they had to adjust their offense against G-R.
“We weren’t taking the shots we wanted to take – we were shooting jumpers,” North Tama coach Brandon Clubb said of his team’s 5-for-23 first half outing from the field. “With our size advantage we wanted to get it inside and take those high-percentage shots. That’s what we did in the second half – maintain our defensive intensity and just do what we needed to do offensively.”
Jacob Wrage’s runner capped six straight points for North Tama to open the third with a 21-16 edge. The Redhawks’ closed their 11-2 surge with a Boerm jumper and Wrage 3-pointer to grab a 26-18 advantage with 3:43 left in the frame, as the Rebels endured a five and a half minute field goal drought.
Camden Kickbush rallied the Rebels to 26-23 with a triple and hit one more at the third quarter buzzer after five straight points from Wrage to stay within 30-26 entering the fourth.
The Redhawks widened their lead to 38-28 with 5:15 to play on Dalton Hulme’s basket inside, but once again the Rebels retaliated from outside. Two 3s from Kickbush bookended another from Jacob Smoldt to trim the deficit to 42-38 with 2:24 left, but the Redhawks’ defense didn’t allow another basket. Wrage, who scored 13 of his team-best 15 points in the second half, made four free throws in the final 20 seconds to clinch the Redhawks’ 14th straight win.
Kickbush led the Rebels (17-7) with a game-high 16 points including four triples, while the Redhawks held G-R’s leading scorer, Zach Pierce, to five points after he averaged 23 in the Rebels’ first two postseason games. The sophomore battled early foul trouble and the full attention of the Redhawks’ front line.
“Defensively they did a very good job the whole game,” G-R coach Scott Kiburis said. “They had two guys on (Zach) at all times and made it very difficult for Jacob to catch it on the perimeter.
“We were patient and we wanted to move the ball around and keep the score low, which we did. They just did a better job of getting the ball inside.”
The Redhawks also limited the Rebels to just six free throw attempts – after they attempted 59 in their two district wins. Pierce made 22-of-29 in those two outings but took just a pair Friday.
“We wanted him to shoot over us,” Wrage said of North Tama’s defense on Pierce. “He’s a good free-throw shooter so we didn’t want to foul and go for his upfakes.”
G-R controlled the pace early with their methodical offense, while keeping the driving lanes closed with their man-to-man defense to take a 16-15 lead into halftime.
“We practiced zone all week and expected them to run zone like they did last game,” Boerm said. “We made a few adjustments. The shots weren’t falling – we were just lucky that our defense was able to hold them to 16 in the first half.”
The Redhawks reversed their fortune from a year ago when G-R ended their season in the district semifinal. Nolan Hefty and Boerm each had 12 points, while Hulme added nine and Brent Billerbeck had two for North Tama, which shot 14-for-21 in the second half.
Smoldt had eight for the Rebels, while Trevor Trunck had five and Chase Clark four.
“It’s nice to get this win, but we can’t celebrate it, because we have to go again tomorrow,” Boerm said. “We’ve got to go home, get some sleep, recharge and get ready for another one.”
The Redhawks won the previous meeting 52-39 in Reinbeck Jan. 26. Gladbrook-Reinbeck ended North Tama’s season last year winning a district semifinal 62-53 in Traer. … Iowa Mennonite’s two losses came against No. 5 Lone Tree. IMS lost in the first round of the state tournament last year and are led in scoring by Peyton Thompson (19.6 ppg), Cameron Gingerich (16.7) and Dallas Nye (13.0). … Iowa Mennonite has reached the boys state tournament 12 times including a state title in 1992 and runner-up finishes in 1991, 1998, 2005 and 2007. … The Rebels lost to Iowa Mennonite 55-39 in last year’s substate final at Cedar Rapids Prairie.