East Marshall takes the torch from Gladbrook-Reinbeck, 41-32
LE GRAND — There’s been a renaissance of excellence for East Marshall sports lately, particularly on the basketball court where the Mustang boys are having their best season in years.
On Tuesday night, the Class 2A No. 6 East Marshall boys accomplished something that hasn’t been done in Le Grand in their lifetime, as the Mustangs downed Gladbrook-Reinbeck 41-32 to remain undefeated in NICL West Division play and secure their first outright conference crown since 1993.
Not only did they win the first division title in nearly a decade and a half, they went through the Rebels to do it, a team that has won four-straight solo NICL West championships and at least a share of the last five crowns.
East Marshall head coach Adam Bauder said this is an incredible achievement for his guys, and he’s giving them a full day to celebrate before getting back to business.
“Right now it feels amazing, we just told the kids in there that we are kind of doing that 24-hour rule because this was step one on our goal sheet,” Bauder said. “It feels good to accomplish that and be on the right track. I told them to celebrate this thing because it feels good and they’ve done something that hasn’t been done in a long time, so enjoy it.”
Seniors Zane Johnson and Tyler DeBondt led the Mustangs (17-0, 11-0) with 10 points each against Gladbrook-Reinbeck (12-5, 8-3), fitting considering both guys were on the team their freshman year that went 2-20 overall and 1-13 in division play.
Johnson said, given how far this team has come, he almost can’t believe that he and the Mustangs won the NICL West on Tuesday night.
“It means a lot because my freshman year we won two games and now to be the top dogs, that makes that very special,” Johnson said.
DeBondt said it’s been amazing to watch the transformation in the community itself, as people in Le Grand and the surrounding area have gravitated toward the success of their Mustangs.
“It means a lot to our community, I remember when I was a freshman and coming to play a varsity basketball game, and there was nobody here,” DeBondt said. “Bringing the community together and just seeing everybody here, it was a substate-like atmosphere.”
It truly was a great atmosphere when East Marshall and G-R tipped off, and things couldn’t have started much better for the Mustangs, as they jumped out to a 10-2 by the end of the first quarter. Of course the Rebels wouldn’t go away that easily, as they started the second on a 7-0 run to pull the game within four by halftime, 21-17.
Bauder said he knew Gladbrook-Reinbeck was going to give them fits, because he knows just what kind of program the rebels have.
“They did a great job and we know they are well coached and they play hard. They are so used to winning that there was no way they were just going to let it slide without a fight,” Bauder said. “Our guys knew that coming in and they responded well, but they did a good job controlling the tempo and taking us out of stuff we wanted to do. They had a good gameplan.”
After halftime, the Mustangs and Rebels each had a hard time scoring, as each team scored just three baskets in the third. With East Marshall up three points heading to the final eight minutes, Bauder decided to put the ball in DeBondt’s hands to control the tempo down the stretch.
“We look to him for leadership and that was the matchup we were able to exploit,” Bauder said of his senior point guard. “He was able to get into the lane and create stuff, once we figured that out we exhausted our other options and he took charge that way. It was really good to see that.”
DeBondt was masterful in his ability to run down the clock, get into the open lane, then kick out for a shot. He also stepped to the free throw line twice in the final minute and drilled four shots, effectively ending the Rebels’ chances at a comeback.
“At the end of the third quarter we were up, and at that point you have control of the game,” DeBondt said of how he approached the fourth. “There is no shot clock, you just try to limit turnovers and take control of the game. All the pressure is on them at that point, if we just take care of the ball, hit free throws and make layups then we will win.”
Of course Johnson and fellow senior Zaine Leedom were big too, coming up with big-time shots and defensive plays throughout the night. Both of them got the crowd riled up with huge dunks too, with Leedom’s coming off an alley-oop pass from DeBondt in the second quarter and Johnson’s coming off a steal and runout in the fourth.
Johnson said getting that dunk and hearing the roar from the Mustang faithful was enough to give him goosebumps.
“I thought I had one at the start but they knocked that away, so that one felt pretty good,” Johnson said with a large grin. “In the heat of the moment it got the crowd into it, and I think that helped us.”
Of course what else helped them was a tough defensive effort, something East Marshall has used all year. Jackson Kiburis was the only Rebel player in double figures with 11 points, while Mason Skovgard and Walker Thede each had eight. Skovgard also finished with 12 rebounds.
Following DeBondt and Johnson in scoring was Leedom and senior Logan Nicholson with eight. Leedom also had eight rebounds and three blocks, while Johnson had six steals and DeBondt finished with five assists.
G-R was down leading scorer Cade Kickbush however, as he suffered and ankle injury against West Marshall last Friday, but DeBondt said they still knew the Rebels would play tough.
“When you play a team like G-R, you just know it’s going to be a dog fight. They have always been well coached, I’ve got the utmost respect for their coach, he always has them well prepared,” he said. “They were even out their best player and they were still tough.”
This is already a season that will be talked about in Le Grand for some time to come, but the Mustangs have their eyes set higher than just on an NICL West title. There is still a possibility of an undefeated regular season and unbeaten mark in the division, not to mention postseason aspirations yet to be fulfilled.
DeBondt said echoed his coach’s sentiments, saying that this was something they’ve wanted all season, but they still want more.
“Winning a conference championship is huge for us, that was one of our goals entering the season,” he said. “We have a couple more goals to get, we are looking forward to getting those goals too but we have to take it one game at a time and keep playing team defense because that’s what we take pride in.”
Up next the Mustangs travel to Meskwaki Settlement on Thursday to take on the Warriors, then they return home to face off with West Marshall back in Le Grand on Friday to close out their NICL West schedule.
East Marshall 41,
At Le Grand
GLADBROOK-REINBECK (12-5, 8-3) — Tyler Tscherter 1 0-0 3, Walker Thede 3 0-0 8, Matt Johannsen 1 0-0 2, Jackson Kiburis 5 0-0 11, Mason Skovgard 4 0-0 8, Eli Thede 0 0-0 0, Colton Clark 0 0-0 0, Dylan Riffey 0 0-0 0. TOTALS 14 0-0 32.
EAST MARSHALL (17-0, 11-0) — Zaine Leedom 3 2-2 8, Zane Johnson 4 2-3 10, Eli Anderson 2 0-0 5, Tyler DeBondt 3 4-5 10, Logan Nicholson 4 0-2 8, Evan Espenschied 0 0-0 0, Zach Finders 0 0-0 0, Jimmy Sylvester 0 0-0 0. TOTALS 15 8-12 41.
G-R 2 15 7 8 — 32
E. Marshall 10 11 6 14 — 41
3-Point Goals–G-R 4 (Thede 2, Tscherter, Kiburis), EM 1 (Anderson). Total Fouls–G-R 15, EM 7. Fouled Out–Skovgard.