REINBECK - The Trojans didn't get the start they wanted, but finally found the finish that has evaded them.
Countering a red-hot Camden Kickbush in the fourth quarter, the West Marshall boys basketball team upset Class 1A No. 8 Gladbrook-Reinbeck 63-60 Friday in a showdown between reigning NICL West Division co-champs.
Reggie Gradwell poured in 19 points and Duncan Ferch added 18 as the Trojans (7-2, 4-1) handed the Rebels (4-1, 4-1) their first loss of the season. Ahead by three, West Marshall elected to send Zach Pierce to the line with 3.7 seconds left, before pulling down the missed front end of a one-and-one as Ferch launched the ball to the other end as time expired.
"We did the things we needed to do from start to finish," said West Marshall coach Paul deNeui. "That's been our problem, we're not finishing the games like we start them. Tonight we finally put a complete game together and it paid off."
Things didn't start out as promising for the Trojans as they fell into a 12-4 hole and lost starter Trenton Keislar late in the first when he turned his right ankle landing on another player's shoe. Keislar didn't return, though his teammates picked up the slack and used a 14-4 surge midway through the second quarter to seize a 32-31 advantage at the half.
Ferch and Nick Juel both buried 3-pointers late in the third and Gradwell added another to start the fourth giving West Marshall its largest lead at 48-38.
"After Trenton went down, we came back as a team," said Gradwell. "It was a team effort - everyone scored and everyone passed around. That's what we need to do."
Kickbush and the Rebels wouldn't go down quietly.
Scoreless through the first half, Kickbush scored 10 of his 12 points in the final frame and followed Luke Holman's triple with one of his own to trim the deficit to four. Zach Pierce put back his own miss to bring G-R within 49-48 as the margin swayed back and forth between 3-and 1-point deficits three more times.
Kickbush's baseline drive at the 2:16 mark brought G-R back to 53-52 with a chance to tie at the line, though Ferch grabbed the board off the missed free throw and went the length of the court for a layup. Juel followed with a corner trey with 1:19 left to push the lead to six though Joe Smoldt offered an equal response 10 seconds later to bring the home team within 58-55.
Kickbush's potential game-tying 3 rimmed out though he twice brought the Rebels back within three in the final 30 seconds with a driving layup and another triple.
"We wanted to limit them to one shot a time," said deNeui, whose squad kept the Rebels' second-chance opportunities in check. "They're a good team and they're really good shooters in their own gym. We knew if we gave them multiple looks, they would beat us."
Smoldt and Holman led the Rebels with 13 points, while Pierce added 12. G-R connected on nine shots from beyond the arc with four coming in the final stanza. Rebels coach Scott Kiburis said his team needed more consistency on offense earlier in the game, particularly when the Trojans made their move in the second quarter.
"We got a little sloppy on offense and we didn't take advantage of the (8-point) lead we had," said Kiburis. "When Keislar went down, their guys stepped up. They hit shots. They were wide-open shots, but they hit shots."
Kiburis has several capable scorers on his team, though things are still coming together in terms of the fluidity of the offense.
"We're still young and trying to run our offense," Kiburis said. "We have a lot to replace from last year in running the offense, maybe not the points, but we're still getting that together."
Matt Van Metre finished with 13 points and was one of several defenders the Trojans threw at Pierce in the paint. Nick Juel chipped in nine.
The Trojans start 2014 at home against Gilbert on Jan. 4. The Rebels host Denver on Jan. 3 and Don Bosco on Jan. 4.
"This is big for us," said deNeui. "Our confidence was a little shaken up when we got beat by (AGWSR) in conference so this helped us refocus and hopefully it will carry over to next year."