Third time’s a charm

Bobcats down Urbandale in substate opener, 58-49

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON • Marshalltown senior Luke Appel, left, hangs in the air while putting up a shot over Urbandale’s Casey Steen during the Bobcats’ 58-49 win over the J-Hawks in the first round of their substate tournament. Appel led the way with 30 points, a mark that put him over 1,000 points in his career.

URBANDALE — In the first two meetings between the Marshalltown boys basketball team and Urbandale this season, it was two extremely tight contests that the J-Hawks ended up pulling away in late, sometimes in the final seconds.

So when the two teams met up for a third time on Monday in the Class 4A Substate 7 opening round, the Bobcats were looking to avenge their two losses from CIML Iowa Conference play and eliminate Urbandale on its home court.

MHS did just that, walking out of the J-Hawks’ home gym with a 59-48 victory to reach the substate semifinals for the first time since beating Mason City in the first round in 2012.

Marshalltown head coach Scott Smith said he and the Bobcats knew what to expect when facing down the J-Hawks, so they were able to put together a plan to win and the guys execute it perfectly.

“I just really thought the kids did everything we asked them to do, the coaching staff did a great job of game planning and the kids bought into it,” Smith said.

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON • Marshalltown junior Jacob Smith (24) drives in for a shot while Urbandale’s Henry Drake contests during the first half of the Bobcats’ 58-49 win over the J-Hawks in their Class 4A substate opener Monday.

Things didn’t start how the Bobcats (8-13) would have liked, as Urbandale (8-14) jumped out to an early 14-7 lead with roughly two minutes to go in the first quarter. Marshalltown finished strong, however, rolling off a 7-0 run to finish the quarter tied, capped off by a coast-to-coast driving layup by Josh Melde as time expired reminiscent of his shot before halftime in the Bobcats’ win over No. 3 Des Moines North to end the regular season.

The momentum kept on rolling in the second quarter with MHS extending that run out to an 11-0 lead and taking an 18-14 advantage, a lead that the Bobcats would never relinquish.

Smith said his guys understandably were a bit nervous to start the first postseason game, but once they settled in it was all Marshalltown.

“I just thought we came out a little bit tight, for some kids this is their first experience in a tournament atmosphere, but after we kind of got our legs under us and got rid of some of those early-game jitters I really thought we played well for the last 29 minutes of the game,” Smith said.

No one settled in better than senior Luke Appel, who made a couple shots to start the run in the first quarter then put up eight points in the second to finish with 17 points at halftime. He would add another 13 points in the second half to give him a game-high 30 points, a number not just significant to the win but significant to Appel’s career.

With the 30-point effort, Appel became the latest member of Iowa’s 1,000-point scorer club, putting him at 1,015 points in his time in Marshalltown.

Smith said there were two different plans when it came to Appel depending on the defense Urbandale played, and it just so happened they didn’t put as much on the 6-foot-7 senior as the MHS coaches had planned.

“It wasn’t real complicated, if they didn’t double-team Luke he was going to have his way in there and he did early and when he did we hit the shots at key times,” Smith said.

After scoring 35 points in the first half, things slowed down in the second for both squads. Urbandale started off on an eight-point run out of halftime to even things up at 35, most by leading scorer Anthony Costello who finished with 17 points, but the Bobcats responded well by closing the quarter on a 6-1 run to retake the lead. Three steals during that span by MHS led to three scores, and Smith said defense is really what led to this first playoff win in six years.

“Ultimately it came down to defense, our goal every game is to hold them under 52 points, and the final score 49 so we were averaging 12 a quarter and that’s beautiful basketball,” he said. “I thought early on they were having their way in the lane but I just thought the guys have really accepted their roles.”

A guy who was a big factor on that side of the ball, Smith said, was senior Sam Irwin off the bench. Irwin’s name doesn’t pop up much on the score sheet, but Smith said Irwin — who missed the first two Urbandale games due to illness — makes a huge difference because of his ability to guard multiple positions.

“Sam Irwin wasn’t with us the first two times and he’s a kid that doesn’t show up in the box score but he came in and did a great job on Costello and what Sam does is he gives you so much versatility on the defensive end,” Smith said. “He can guard anybody, even if a guy is six or seven inches taller. He can guard guards, so I really thought he did an excellent job.”

Irwin said was humble after the game about what his presence means to the squad, but he said he was happy to help his team get past the J-Hawks.

“I don’t know if I make a difference, I just go out there and try to play my best every game and put the team first,” Irwin said. “It was really nice to get revenge on them the third time.”

Another player Smith pointed to as a big reason they won was junior Sunday Arou, who finished tied for second on the team in scoring with Jacob Smith at seven points.

“You saw Sunday’s progression, he’s a kid that has played somewhat sparingly but in junior varsity he kept getting better and better in practice and he can stroke it,” coach Smith said. “If it wasn’t for his size 14 shoes he would have hit all his free throws. He just plays with so much confidence.”

As Smith alluded to, Arou had a couple of trips to the free-throw line in the fourth quarter to help secure victory for the Bobcats. In his first appearance, he drilled the shot but was called for a foot fault over the line, disallowing the shot. He still stepped up to the charity stripe on two more occasions and hit four big shots to help maintain the Marshalltown lead, and he said all he was thinking about at the line was helping his team win.

“I was just thinking I wanted to make these for my team so I was staying confident in my head to knock those free throws down and seal the game,” Arou said.

Smith said every player who stepped on the court on Monday, no matter how long they were out there, was a part of the win, and if they continue to play team ball like this the rest of the state needs to watch out.

“We talk a lot about accepting your roles and not worrying about the quantity of minutes but the quality, and I really thought the kid whether they played 30 seconds, a minute and a half, ten minutes, all 32, they gave us quality minutes tonight,” Smith said. “It’s so much fun to see and they are really coming together at the right time and the kids have been so great to coach all year.”

Up next for the Bobcats is a meeting with Des Moines Hoover in the substate semifinals, an 18-2 squad from the CIML Metro Conference. Luckily, the Bobcats just beat a two-loss team from the CIML Metro in Des Moines North, so Smith said his guys know they can hang with the Huskies.

“You know what? We are still alive and that’s all it is right now, just win and move on,” Smith said. “We are one of the top 32 teams that’s left in 4A right now and that’s all you can ask for, you can’t look back just forward to the game Friday. The coaching staff is going to put a great game plan together and the way we are playing right now after beating North last Friday and tonight, we can’t worry about rankings or what it says on the jersey, we just know the Bobcats are going to give a great effort.”

Marshalltown heads south to face off with Des Moines Hoover in the 4A Substate 7 semifinals on Friday, starting at 7 p.m.

Marshalltown 58, Urbandale 49

At Urbandale

MARSHALLTOWN (8-13) — Austin Shomo 2 0-0 5, Josh Melde 3 0-0 6, Bennett O’Hare 1 0-1 3, Jacob Smith 3 1-2 7, Luke Appel 12 6-7 30, Sam Irwin 0 0-0 0, Makeer Kuony 0 0-0 0, Sunday Arou 1 4-4 7. TOTALS 22 11-13 58.

URBANDALE (8-14) — Henry Drake 4 7-12 15, Anthony Costello 8 1-2 17, Caseu Steen 1 0-0 2, Ben DeKruyf 1 0-0 3, Will Pattison 3 0-0 6, Lucas Strain 0 0-0 0, Alex Economos 1 0-0 3, Justin Boord 1 0-0 3. TOTALS 19 8-14 49.

MHS 14 21 6 17 — 58

URBANDALE 14 13 9 14 — 49

3-Point Goals–MHS 3 (Shomo, O’Hare, Arou), URB 3 (Economos, DeKruyf, Boord). Total Fouls–MHS 13, URB 15. Fouled Out–none.