Rebels resist Warriors, 52-48

Gladbrook-Reinbeck defeats Meskwaki in thrilling 1A district finale

T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE • Gladbrook-Reinbeck’s Mason Skovgard (35) goes in for two points against Meskwaki defender Tiernan Wanatee (44) during the first half of Thursday’s Class 1A District 7 final at East Marshall High School in LeGrand. Skovgard scored a game-high 20 points as the Rebels advanced with a 52-48 win.

LE GRAND — The only team to beat North Linn in the last two seasons is going to get another shot at the Lynx.

The Gladbrook-Reinbeck boys’ basketball team fought past Meskwaki 52-48 in Thursday’s Class 1A District 7 title game to earn a fifth-straight trip to the substate finals, edging past the Warriors with just enough free throws at the end.

Caden Kickbush made the last two from the charity stripe with 2.6 seconds left, lifting the Rebels (18-6) to the final four-point advantage after Meskwaki’s potential go-ahead 3-pointer came up short.

It was an unfortunatel microcosm of a season of near-misses for the Warriors (13-9), who advanced to the district finals for the second time in the last three years.

Meskwaki’s lone senior Jarius Bear led his team with 15 points, nine rebounds and four assists, but Gladbrook-Reinbeck made his final heave a challenging one. With Matt Johannsen and Jackson Kiburis contesting, Bear’s 25-footer for the lead missed everything, but Taurice Grant came down with the rebound. In trying to scramble back out from the baseline, Grant stepped out of bounds and G-R took possession with 2.6 seconds remaining.

T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE • Meskwaki senior Jarius Bear (31) knocks down a 3-pointer over the outstretched arm of Gladbrook-Reinbeck’s Walker Thede during the second half of Thursday’s game in LeGrand.

“We had the look, we had the shooter we wanted, he got the look but just rushed it a little bit,” said Meskwaki head coach Garrett Bear. “We got a second chance but he stepped out of bounds. You can’t ask for more than that, your best shooter taking that shot with five seconds left.

“Anytime Jarry puts it up we think it’s going in. If we had to choose someone shooting it, that’s who would take it.”

A quick inbounds pass to Kickbush and his subsequent free throws spelled the end for the Warriors and earned the Rebels another round of basketball.

Mason Skovgard scored a game-high 20 points, Kickbush finished with a double-double of 13 rebounds and 14 rebounds and Gladbrook-Reinbeck rolled with Meskwaki’s defensive strategies and adjusted on the fly to find the right spots to attack.

“They’re a very disciplined team, a very good defensive team, I was so very impressed with them and very excited we had a chance to win,” G-R head coach Scott Kiburis said, “because we had to play pretty hard to do it.

T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE

“We kind of wanted to ride Caden and Mason as long as they could play today and they played a lot of minutes.”

When the Warriors came out challenging Kickbush everywhere on the court, G-R turned to the 6-foot-5 Skovgard and got going with their other big man. A few splashes from 3-point land helped the Rebels find the room they needed to maneuver, too.

Tyler Tscherter made a pair of first-quarter 3-pointers and Walker Thede added another in the second period to help the Rebels stretch their lead, but the Warriors refused to go away. Victor Balderas — one of three starting freshmen for Meskwaki — sunk a triple of his own to cut G-R’s halftime lead to 27-22.

The Warriors dressed only seven players and played just six after losing starting sophomore point guard Emmett Roberts to disqualification when he was ejected from Tuesday’s district semifinal win over Belle Plaine, but they never backed down in spite of the heaping helping of adversity.

Meskwaki used a 10-2 run to open the second half, sparked by five points from Jarius and a pair of his assists that resulted in easy layups for Tiernan Wanatee. The Warriors led 32-29 and again at 34-32, but buckets for Skovgard and Kickbush put G-R back in front 36-34 going into the fourth.

T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE

The back-and-forth battle continued until five-straight points for Thede pushed G-R’s lead to seven, 46-39. A 3-pointer for Jarius got Meskwaki back to within 48-46, but the Rebels converted just enough at the free-throw down the stretch to stay in front.

Skovgard made a pair of freebies to make it 50-46 with 1:40 to go, but Tscherter and Kiburis both missed front ends of one-and-ones to keep the Warriors’ hopes alive. Jarius got a basket and a foul but missed the bonus attempt, leaving it 50-48 G-R with 1:03 to play.

After Kiburis’ miss, the Warriors called a timeout to set up their final play. Nobody was surprised when the ball ended up in Jarius’ hands at the end, least of all the Rebels.

“We stuck Walker and Matt up top to go harrass them, and that kid got a shot that was pretty deep with a hand in his face,” said Skovgard. “It was great defense and then [Grant] stepped out of bounds. It was a little bit of a panic and then when the whistle blew I could calm down again.”

Kickbush’s free throws were his only attempts of the game as Meskwaki fought hard to stay out of foul trouble. Not until Evan Nelson checked in with 1:11 remaining did the Warriors go to their bench.

T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE

“We knew we were going to be [without Roberts] and we were going to play regardless, and we still felt like we could beat them,” coach Bear said, “I still feel now we could beat them.

“We laid it out there, we had the plays to do it, we just didn’t capitalize. It’s a little tough that way but I’m proud of how we played.”

Jarius closed with 1,291 points for his career after leading the Warriors in their season-ending loss. Taté Bear contributed 14 points and six rebounds, while Wanatee finished with eight points, Balderas had six and Grant five.

All of Gladbrook-Reinbeck’s points came from just four players. Behind Skovgard’s 20 and Kickbush’s 13, Thede ended with 10 and Tscherter’s three 3-pointers tallied nine.

“I knew it’d be close,” coach Kiburis said. “I thought maybe [Meskwaki] would come out and double the ball a little bit more but maybe because Emmett wasn’t playing they didn’t do that as much, which is disappointing because he’s an excellent player and to be honest I’m not quite sure what he did wrong the other night. It probably would have been a little different game.”

Now the Rebels brace for a North Linn squad that is ranked No. 1 and at 25-0 the last unbeaten team in 1A. The Lynx suffered just one loss a year ago, going 27-1 after a 58-53 state semifinal setback at the hands of Gladbrook-Reinbeck at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.

Now, in order to get back to the Well, the two teams must do battle again.

“I think we’re the only team to beat them in the last two years, so we’ve got that going for us,” coach Kiburis chuckled. “They’re a great team and excellently coached.

“We’ve got something in store for them and I know they’ve got a lot in store for us. We’re happy we’re in the game and we are going to compete. I don’t think anybody on their schedule has really competed with them and that’s a goal of mine, but it’s the playoffs. We’ve played a lot and hopefully we can stay with them in the game and toward the end get a shot to win.”

Gladbrook-Reinbeck 52, Meskwaki 48

At Le Grand

MESKWAKI (13-9) — Taurice Grant 2 1-2 5, Taté Bear 6 1-1 14, Victor Balderas 2 1-2 5, Jarius Bear 5 2-5 15, Tiernan Wanatee 4 0-0 8, Evan Nelson 0 0-0 0. TOTALS 19 5-10 48.

GLADBROOK-REINBECK (18-6) — Walker Thede 4 0-1 10, Matt Johannsen 0 0-0 0, Caden Kickbush 5 2-2 13, Jackson Kiburis 0 0-1 0, Mason Skovgard 7 6-6 20, Tyler Tscherter 3 0-1 9, Colton Clark 0 0-0 0. TOTALS 19- 8-11 52.

MESKWAKI 11 11 12 14 — 48

G-R 13 14 9 16 — 52

3-Point Goals–Meskwaki 5 (J.Bear 3, T.Bear, Balderas), G-R 6 (Tscherter 3, Thede 2, Kickbush). Total Fouls–Meskwaki 15, G-R 11. Fouled Out–none.