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Rebels second-to-none Gladbrook-Reinbeck rounds out perfect season with 1A crown

March 22, 2015
TYLER STRAND - Central Iowa Press , Reinbeck Courier

DES MOINES - The Rebels played a man down the last time they battled for a state championship.

The same predicament was thrown at them midway through the second quarter Friday.

Rallying together after leading scorer Joe Smoldt was briefly knocked out of the game following a hard foul, the rejuvenated Rebels rattled off 14 straight points to seize the lead for good.

Article Photos

Photo by Ross Thede

Cam Kickbush, who missed last fall's Class A football title game with a broken collarbone, sparked the Rebels with 20 points as Gladbrook-Reinbeck surged past Maple Valley-Anthon-Oto 64-52 in the Class 1A championship of the Iowa Boys State Basketball Tournament at Wells Fargo Arena.

Kickbush hit 6-of-7 from the field and was 4-for-5 behind the arc as the top-ranked Rebels (28-0) completed their perfect season as the lone undefeated team in the state. Smoldt came back to score 10 in the second half and Zach Pierce added 10 points and five assists before fouling out to help G-R end western Iowa's six-year stranglehold on the Class 1A title.

The Rebels traded baskets and blows with the No. 3 Rams (26-2) in a physical contest that featured seven lead changes through the first 11 1/2 minutes. Kickbush tied the game at 21 with his second trey 3 minutes into the second but soon after Smoldt attacked the hoop and hit the floor hard as he was hacked by Derrik Kerns. Smoldt lay on the floor for a couple minutes before exiting the game on his own will and in turn firing up his teammates to take over.

"I don't know if it was a cheap shot or not but that just got us pumped up," G-R junior Colton Dinsdale said. "It's just like in a boxing match, they're throwing punches and we needed to come right back with something else, we just got on the bench there during that timeout and got pumped up and went out and scored more points."

Luke Holman stepped in to hit two free throws, Cameron Clark got free for a layup and Kickbush buried another 3 before clapping his hands as he went back on defense. Dinsdale tracked down an offensive board to set up Holman for another trip to the line as G-R's lead grew to eight and the tide continued to shift.

Any early nerves that the Rebels may have been facing seemed to be shaken out by Smoldt's fall as G-R showed extra intensity on the glass, fired their shots with more confidence and defended with an added spring in their step. Smoldt returned a couple minutes later and Kickbush drilled another 3 to widen the margin to 32-21.

G-R got contributions from everyone as Dinsdale tripled his scoring average with nine points and two steals, Clark tallied nine points and seven rebounds and Holman kicked in six points and four rebounds off the bench.

Korey Kuhlmann, who tallied game highs of 26 points and nine rebounds, hit a jumper to stop the flurry as the Rebels took a 32-23 cushion into the break. Smoldt was scoreless at halftime but came back firing in the second half with seven straight points in the third.

"We knew Joe wasn't going to quit on us, he was going to come back and we knew that," said Kickbush, who added four rebounds and four assists. "We just needed to go without him for a couple minutes and play tough - even tougher than we were - and keep our heads."

Kuhlmann trimmed the deficit to 39-32 with another drive to the basket and Pierce picked up his second and third fouls in a 14-second span as things started to tighten. With their big man on the bench, Smoldt knocked down a jumper over two Ram defenders to push the advantage back to 10 and Clark added a transition layup and hook shot on back-to-back possessions to increase it to 47-33.

Dinsdale laid out for a loose ball and tipped it ahead to Smoldt for a trip to the line as G-R took a 48-33 lead into the fourth. MVAO went nearly 7 minutes between field goals as they struggled to hit shots against G-R's active 2-3 zone. The Rams shot 39.7 percent for the game and hit just 2-of-20 from beyond the arc.

"Most teams have played a zone (against us) throughout our whole career because we've had a hard time knocking down shots," Kuhlmann said. "And they saw we were doing that and went to the zone and we had a hard time knocking some down. We only made 2 (3s) for the game and that's the difference right there."

G-R shot 60.6 percent from the field and connected on seven of its 13 3-point attempts to overcome MVAO's 15 offensive rebounds and 13-5 advantage on second-chance points.

The Rams got no closer than 12 in the final frame as G-R sank 10 of its last 12 from the line to ice the win and claim G-R's first boys state team championship since the Rebels' golf team topped the podium in 1999.

Kickbush could only watch from the sidelines in November when the Rebels nearly came away with a state title at the UNI-Dome. He and the Rebels took full advantage of their second opportunity and picked up the slack when their sophomore sharpshooter went down.

"These guys are awesome," Smoldt said. "I've been playing with these guys a long time so I know that they got my back and that if anything happens they're going to keep going. And even without me they're going to keep going and try to get it."

Smoldt was named the captain of the all-tournament team and led the field with 61 points, while Kickbush was also selected to the squad and finished with 57. Both helped the Rebels carve through the Rams' ramped up defensive pressure in the second half.

"Their guards are so good," MVAO coach Brian Brown said. "We were down and had to extend out a bit more than we wanted to and take some chances. And when you do that, boy they make you pay. They hit seven 3s on us and any time we'd get a bucket they'd answer so it was tough to get back into it."

Shawn Flanigan, the hero of Thursday's semifinal win over No. 2 Danville, hit just 5-of-17 from the field and finished with 13 points while Kerns had 11 but battled foul trouble throughout before picking up his fifth in the final minute.

As the last seconds ticked away and Kickbush dribbled out the clock, a sea of blue gave the Rebels a raucous ovation as they turned to celebrate with their fans. The championship run helped bring together a community still working through the emotions of a controversial decision to close the Gladbrook campus, which houses Gladbrook Elementary and Gladbrook Middle School, though all of the that was pushed aside Friday night.

"This group is together at the beginning with them and they love their sports," G-R coach Scott Kiburis said. "They love the Rebels and they support them regardless of where the game is being played. There are so many people in the stands. It's so important to small towns to see their kids, their friends play on the big scale. For the people of Gladbrook and Reinbeck, it's very important."

Going from tournament newcomers to state champions in a matter of days, Friday's finish was just what the Rebels had dreamed of. And yet Kickbush was likely not the only one sorry to see the journey come to an end.

"As much as I wanted it to end this way, I don't want it to end," Kickbush said. "It's just a great group of guys I'm with and it's just a great way to end it."

The Rebels graduate eight seniors that leave G-R with an overall record of 83-19. G-R returns nine players next year including starters Smoldt and Dinsdale.



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