STATE CENTER - There was no way around it.
To move one step closer to a conference title, the Rebels had to get through West Marshall. And Gladbrook-Reinbeck took it right at the Trojans Friday.
Scoring all but two of their first-half baskets inside the paint, the Rebels claimed a 13-point halftime lead before getting things going outside in a 58-46 victory over West Marshall in a showdown between NICL West Division frontrunners.
Gladbrook-Reinbeck junior Cameron Clark (51) scores inside against West Marshall’s Reggie Gradwell in the first half of an NICL West Division game at State Center Friday. The Rebels claimed a 58-46 victory to move a game ahead of the Trojans in the conference title race.
The Rebels (14-2, 11-1) claimed their sixth straight victory and the 10th in their last 11 games, while putting themselves in the driver's seat for a conference crown.
Zach Pierce bruised his way to a game-high 22 points and set the tone for G-R's inside attack including a three-point play that stretched the Rebels' lead to 42-22 midway through the third quarter. Pierce's bucket capped a 9-0 flurry and followed back-to-back treys from Colton Dinsdale and Camden Kickbush to put West Marshall on the ropes.
"Zach Pierce has been playing really well and our guys are really starting to find him in our man offense," G-R coach Scott Kiburis said. "He's doing a good job of being patient with it and then sometimes giving it back up or taking it to the basket.
Pierce has averaged 22 points over the last four games including a pair of 26-point efforts, though he also got some assistance inside with 10 points from Chase Clark and another six by Cameron Clark off the bench. Several times Pierce received the ball off a screen in the paint and turned for easy looks, while the Rebels also dominated on the boards.
"Our guards were recognizing that and getting the ball inside," Kiburis said of his team's success in the paint. "The game was being played really slow in that first quarter so Zach was able to keep his wind and we were able to get the basketball in to him."
The Trojans (15-3, 10-2) rallied back with a 13-4 surge in the fourth as Nick Juel's triple cut the deficit to eight, but got no closer as West Marshall saw its 11-game win streak snapped. Gladbrook-Reinbeck made 13 of its last 19 free throws to preserve the win. The Rebels shot 17-of-24 from the line, while West Marshall, which settled for jumpers and outside shots through much of the first half, finished 2-for-2.
"They executed really well. They're playing really well right now," West Marshall coach Paul deNeui said of the Rebels. "We missed a few assignments and obviously that allowed them to score."
Reggie Gradwell paced the Trojans with 12 points, while Matt Van Metre and Trenton Keislar each had 8. Guarded closely by Colton Dinsdale much of the night, Duncan Ferch was held 11 points below his season average with 6.
"We have the best on-ball defender in the league with Colton Dinsdale, he's always picking up the other team's best perimeter player," Kiburis said. "He wears on you because he's a bull and he's going to come after you the whole time. ... Ferch is such a good player. He can take over a game by himself and we didn't want him to get too many runs where he was getting his teammates involved."
G-R led just 11-10 after the first frame before using a 17-8 surge to lead 33-20 at the break. Keislar got West Marshall on the board first in the second half before nine straight by the Rebels gave them their largest lead of the contest.
"Our defense got a little better in the second half," said deNeui. "We just struggled shooting the ball tonight, we were not very good from the field. We're going to bounce back but tonight was just a struggle for us to shoot."
Juel and Elijah Streeter each hit two treys for six points apiece while Camden Kickbush had 8 for G-R. Joe Smoldt chipped in 7 and Dinsdale added 5.
The Trojans travel to East Marshall Tuesday, while the Rebels face North Tama on the road today and host Grundy Center Tuesday.
The Trojans won the first meeting in Reinbeck, 63-60, on Dec. 20. ... West Marshall received eight votes in the Class 2A poll, while Gladbrook-Reinbeck earned 11 in the Class 1A rankings. ... The Rebels snapped West Marshall's 44-game conference win streak on Jan. 25, 2013 in State Center.