G-R defense knocks Comets off course

REINBECK – The Rebels have a variety of offensive weapons.

Though the ignition behind their versatile attack starts at the other end.

Wreaking havoc with its trapping zone defense, the Gladbrook-Reinbeck boys’ basketball team broke away on a 16-0 first-quarter blitz en route to a 64-34 rout of BCLUW in NICL West Division play Friday.

Zach Pierce finished one point shy of his career-high with 24 points, while also grabbing eight rebounds and a pair of steals. Luke Holman added 14 points as the Rebels (3-0, 3-0) used 16 steals and another 16-2 run in the second quarter to pull away.

“We want to play fast and be quick on the defensive end, we know that’s what wins basketball games,” said G-R coach Scott Kiburis. “Our defense ignited our offense. We were flying around, getting tips and being really aggressive trying to force (BCLUW’s) action. The defensive effort was key.”

Benjamin Neff’s bucket gave BCLUW a 5-2 lead midway through the opening frame before three straight G-R steals spurred a 12-point flurry in less than two minutes. Pierce punctuated the Rebels’ run with a 3-point play and a yell to start the second, spotting the home team an 18-5 advantage.

The Comets crept back within 18-10 with another Neff basket and a Ty Runge triple before G-R took off again scoring 16 of the next 18 points.

“Our guys tried to make the great passes instead of the easy, fundamental passes,” said BCLUW coach Austin Schlatter. “That’s ultimately what started our downfall, just not being able to take care of the ball and turning the ball over.”

Even when the Rebels weren’t scoring off turnovers in transition, BCLUW had trouble matching up with G-R’s physicality in the halfcourt game.

No one demonstrated that dominance better than Pierce.

The 6-foot-4 junior drew four 3-point plays and rattled off 11 of the Rebels’ 18 points in the second quarter to build a 34-14 cushion at the break.

Pierce picked back up in the third with seven more points as BCLUW’s zone couldn’t keep G-R off the boards.

“We kind of got hit in the mouth in these first two games with physical teams.” said Schlatter, whose tall but lanky squad opened the season 2-0 against a couple smaller squads (East Marshall, Clarksville) before dropping back-to-back contests against Grundy Center and G-R.

“We came out and competed right away and then we just kind of lost it after that. … We’re really long and not always the quickest on our feet so sometimes we have to stay in the zone a little longer than we’d like, just to hope we can break up the physicality a little bit and distribute it amongst the players.”

The Rebels’ pressure kept coming in waves as eight different players scored and 11 took the court.

“We’ve got a deep bench and we want to use that,” said Kiburis.

“Everybody is playing hard. We have a lot of quality kids that can come in for 2-3 minutes at a fast pace and then we sub them out and someone else does the same thing and we don’t lose anything.”

Camden Kickbush dished out 10 assists and swiped three steals, while he, Colton Dinsdale and Chase Clark each chipped in six points.

Tanner Teske led the Comets with eight points, Runge had six, and Lane Caster and Cole Silver scored five apiece. Conner Ubben was held 11 points below his season average with four. BCLUW finally reached double digits for a quarter in the fourth as they struggled to find quality looks against G-R’s pressure.

“We really emphasized hedging,” said Pierce.

“They weren’t able to get the penetration. We were able to sit back and make them try to shoot over us from 15 (feet).”

The Rebels, which received a vote in this week’s Associated Press rankings, face AGWSR on the road Tuesday, while the Comets host Valley Lutheran today and head to West Marshall Tuesday.