The fourth-ranked Rebels have racked up win after win on the hardwoods of Central Iowa as they have put together back-to-back undefeated regular seasons.
As big of a feat as that is for the boys in blue of Gladbrook-Reinbeck, they know that the term “undefeated regular season” loses its meaning today.
The Rebels (18-0) open district play tonight against Jesup (3-16) at 6:30 p.m. in Hudson.
Gladbrook-Reinbeck took a 21-0 record into district play last winter and saw the best season in school history end much earlier than anyone involved with the Rebels would have liked. Rival Dike-New Hartford stepped onto G-R’s home court and handed the Rebels their only loss of the season in the district semifinals.
Tyson Dirks has graduated and now plays at Drake, but many of the same faces are back for Gladbrook-Reinbeck.
“Whether it’s a win or a loss, hopefully you still learn something for it,” G-R head coach Jason Kirkpatrick said of last year’s Dike-New Hartford game. “I think I did and the kids did as well. That game will definitely give us some experience going into this year.”
The Rebels have stormed their way through the regular season by winning by an average of 21 points per night.
All the tools are there for Gladbrook-Reinbeck. The Rebels can defend (they are allowing 45 points per game), they can score (66 ppg), they are strong in the paint with junior Brett Bengen and they have several scoring options with three players scoring at least 14 points a night.
Gladbrook-Reinbeck enters the postseason after winning three games last week. The Rebels defeated NICL East co-champion NU High, avenged last year’s loss by downing Dike-New Hartford and beat North Tama Saturday without Bengen or second-leading scorer Adam Watermiller.
Kirkpatrick again likes the makeup of his squad, but knows there is room for improvement. The likes of Waterloo Columbus, Sumner-Fredericksburg, South Hardin, West Marshall and Grundy Center have the same thoughts of being the substate’s representative at the state tournament.
“We’re looking to do some certain things on both offense and defense a little bit better,” Kirkpatrick said.
Bengen is nearly a 20-15 man for the Rebels in the paint as he is second in the NICL West in scoring and is far and away the conference leader in rebounding.
Watermiller has turned his game up to another level as a senior and is scoring 15 points a night. He joins Bengen as shooting 60 percent or better from the field for year.
Point guard Scott Benson scores 14 points a night to go with four assists and four rebounds. Benson is Gladbrook-Reinbeck’s top 3-pointer shooter in both makes and percentage.
Out of the Rebels’ top nine, six saw time during the defeat to Dike-New Hartford and remember the feeling afterward.
“You know how it goes, you take it one game at a time,” Kirkpatrick said. “We’ve got Jesup that first round, so we’ll focus on them and we’ll go from there.’
HOIAC Small champs roll into districts
The bus ride back from Jewell on Jan. 11 must have seemed much longer than usual for West Marshall.
The Trojans lost 47-44 to South Hamilton in overtime in a matchup of HOIAC Small Division powers. West Marshall’s Dan Eckhardt scored four points in the last three seconds of regulation to force overtime, but they Trojans were hurt in overtime by losing their heads as they were called for a game-changing technical foul.
It has been a month after its trip to Jewell and West Marshall has not lost since then.
The Trojans have won nine in a row — all by double digits — and take a 16-3 record into tonight’s district opener against BCLUW in Conrad. All three of those losses have been by three points and on the road.
West Marshall advanced to the district final last year and this year’s squad has only one senior on the roster.
Ross Howe and Jake Shipley both bring in the neighbor of 15 points and six rebounds a night apiece to the table. The Trojans have six players scoring five or more points per game in Howe, Shipley, Drake Ferch, Eckhardt, Joe Disney and Sam Buck.
The opening game in Conrad has Grundy Center (12-8) and AGWSR (11-10) meeting for the third time this season. The Spartans won both previous meetings.
Fact BoxTonight’s Games
District First Round
Class 1A District 8
GMG (5-14) vs. North Tama (7-12)
Class 2A District 5
South Hardin (12-7) vs. Hampton-Dumont (5-16)
AGWSR (11-10) vs. Grundy Center (12-8)
BCLUW (1-19) vs. West Marshall (16-3)
Class 2A District 6
Gladbrook-Reinbeck (18-0) vs. Jesup (3-16)
Class 2A District 11
East Marshall (12-9) vs. Belle Plaine (11-10)