CEDAR RAPIDS - One of Class 1A's most prolific offensive squads dabbles in defense too, as the Gladbrook-Reinbeck boys' basketball team can now attest.
The Rebels managed to limit Iowa Mennonite 15 points below its season average, but it wasn't enough to get Gladbrook-Reinbeck its first state tournament berth as IMS pulled away for a 55-39 triumph in Saturday's Substate 6 final at Cedar Rapids Prairie.
When the run-and-gun style of Iowa Mennonite (22-4) would not take against Gladbrook-Reinbeck's possession-oriented style, IMS turned to its frenetic full-court defense to generate scoring opportunities.
Gladbrook-Reinbeck senior Colby Luethje (45) drives to the basket for a layup in front of Iowa Mennonite defender Dallas Nye during the third quarter of Saturday night’s Class 1A substate final at Cedar Rapids Prairie. IMS earned the state tournament berth with a 55-39 win over the Rebels.
The move worked, and IMS is headed to the school's 12th state tournament appearance because of it.
"They give a lot of ball pressure and they were able to rattle us a little bit, and they just kept us out of our offense," said G-R senior Parker Bolt. "They kept us from getting into what we wanted to do and that ended up being what counted the most in the game."
The Rebels (16-9), making the program's first substate appearance as a shared school, made Iowa Mennonite play their slow-down pace in the first half and trailed by two at the break as a result.
G-R appeared to be headed into the half with a tie, but Chance Miller's 25-foot airball was picked up and put back by Peyton Thompson as time expired.
Still, down 25-23, the Rebels were content with their position at the intermission. IMS quickly changed the climate of the comfort zone.
G-R turned the ball over on its first three possessions of the third quarter and IMS instantly had the tempo - and the momentum - in its favor.
"Any of our (offensive) sets we weren't really able to get into them, and we knew that it would be difficult," said G-R head coach Scott Kiburis. "We were just going to try to keep the score down, which I think we did in the first half.
"Defensively I think we did exactly what we intended to do - slow the game down a little bit, which we did, and make them earn their shot."
Thompson complied, making 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions at the end of the third as IMS went ahead 39-31.
The Rebels quickly fell out of striking distance as Iowa Mennonite scored the first eight points of the fourth quarter, capped by Miller's fourth 3-pointer of the game.
"It's tough, they've got five guys scoring 10-11 points a game, so who are you going to cover?" posed Kiburis. "Defensively I think we did everything right."
Iowa Mennonite's offensive total marked just the eighth time in 26 games this season they had been held below 60 points, averaging 70.6 going into the night. But G-R's total was its second-lowest of the winter.
Miller finished with a game-high 14 points to lead IMS, which gained the sixth seed for the Class 1A state tournament and will face Boyden-Hull (23-2) on March 5 in Des Moines.
Thompson finished with 12 points, Johnny Lackender and Brian Hagedorn had 10 apiece, and Cameron Gingerich added nine for Iowa Mennonite.
Gladbrook-Reinbeck was led by Zach Pierce, who pounded the paint for 11 points. Colby Luethje contributed 10 points and five assists, while Bolt and Camden Kickbush both added eight points.
"I think it's hard knowing this'll be the last basketball game I ever play," said Bolt, one of seven seniors on the Rebels' roster. "I think everybody in that locker room believed that we could win this game and that makes it hurt that much more when you don't, so it's extremely tough."
Iowa Mennonite takes a 10-game winning streak into its first state tournament appearance since 2009, while the Rebels will practice as long as they can in hopes of someday hanging the first G-R boys' state basketball banner. Reinbeck possesses the cooperative's only state tournament berth, having finished fourth in Des Moines in 1929.
"Our motto was to have fun, enjoy this and play and practice another day and we did," said Kiburis. "The kids have never experienced this in basketball. They hadn't won the district tournament in the school's consolidated history so that was a positive step.
"It's always hard to lose the last game. There's 164 schools in Class 1A, 163 of them are going to lose their last game, and we made it down to the last 16. I'm very proud of what we accomplished."