For BCLUW, the solution seemed simple enough.
The Comets beat Gladbrook-Reinbeck when the Rebels' leading scorer Parker Bolt was sidelined by injury. When Bolt ripped the nets for 26 points the second time around, G-R rolled to a 38-point victory.
Stop Bolt, stop the Rebels. Right?
Not on this night.
Bolt was just one of Gladbrook-Reinbeck's four players to score in double digits on Monday night, and the Rebels' long-range balance undercut the Comets' plan of attack in a 62-38 G-R triumph in the opening round of Class 2A District 6 boys basketball.
Jacob Smoldt hit four 3-pointers on his way to a team-high 12 points for Gladbrook-Reinbeck (13-9), which will visit Aplington-Parkersburg (13-9) in Thursday's 7 p.m. district semifinal. The Falcons stopped Grundy Center, 69-57, in their first-round pairing.
Scott Kiburis actually credits former Rebel head coach Jason Kirkpatrick and his Spartans for giving G-R the blueprint for victory against BCLUW's box-and-one defensive strategy on Monday night.
"We had a game earlier in the year where Grundy Center did a really good job of running a diamond-and-one on us and we weren't overly prepared for it," G-R's head coach Kiburis said. "We played pretty poorly (a 40-24 loss) so we've been spending time messing with a couple different things over the weeks. We put some stuff in for this game because we thought that might happen, and the concept was Jacob Smoldt and Logan Petersen were going to be open on the perimeter."
Smoldt satisfied his half of that equation, netting two treys in the opening quarter as G-R got out to a 12-6 lead. Another Smoldt trifecta pushed the Rebels out front 17-6, and Levi Petersen came off the bench to knock down a pair of 3-pointers from the corner to make it 26-8 midway through the second period.
BCLUW, meanwhile, could not connect from distance and got only two points in the first 4 minutes of the second quarter. The Comets (7-13) got no closer than 13 points the rest of the way.
"They stretched us out a little bit, they did a good job making shots," said BCLUW head coach Curt Paugh. "Obviously, like our gameplan said, we needed to make shots and against G-R's 2-3 zone we had some time and space. ... We just didn't make them."
It's no secret that the Comets are not a lethal long-range team, boasting a pair of lanky big men in the middle. With 6-foot-6 center Luke Erbes and 6-2 forward Jay Welp, BCLUW's bread and butter lies on the inside, so much so that 73 players across the state entered Monday's opening round of districts with more 3-pointers than the entire Comet squad (42).
Smoldt (45) was one of them.
"It was just going to be a combination of us making shots and those other guys besides Parker missing shots, and it didn't come together tonight," Paugh said. "I thought we had a good gameplan but their guys stepped up and made plays and that's the difference."
Bolt, Levi Petersen and Colby Luethje finished with 10 points apiece, Brady Billerbeck added eight and Logan Petersen six.
Smoldt also led G-R with seven rebounds while Luethje and Bolt added six boards apiece. Logan Petersen had five assists.
Welp scored 12 of his 16 points in the second half to pace BCLUW. Cole Thompson hit a pair of first-half treys on his way to 13 points, but Erbes - the team's leading scorer - was hampered by foul trouble and went scoreless.
"We know they're inside-oriented with Welp and Erbes, we've played them three times now and so we really looked at our game film," Kiburis said. "We said these are the kids we need to stop. Their shooter is Thompson but I didn't think he could beat us, but Erbes is the one that could."
"They really collapsed hard in there," Paugh added of G-R's 2-3 zone defense. "I would venture to say we shot 20-30 percent from the field, and that's a tough number to win with. We look up at the scoreboard at halftime and Parker has five (points) but then we're down 20, so you know this is just going to be a tough night because they've out-executed what we've tried to stop."
The game was the last for Comet seniors Jimmy Sharp, Connor Case, Erbes and Welp.