No. 6 Rebels in control of NICL West, remain undefeated

G-R’s Luke Riffey drive’s past Grundy Center’s Jalen Kirkpatrick during the Rebels’ 65-42 conference win over the Spartans. Riffey totaled 12 points on the night, scoring from here, there and everywhere on the court. – Photo by Darvin Graham

Sizing up the regular season calendar, it became clear for the sixth-ranked Gladbrook-Reinbeck Rebels that mid-January would be a litmus test.

Though a marquee matchup with 2A No. 3 Aplington-Parkersburg still looms, the Rebels have cleared some space at the top of the NICL West conference standings with recent wins over Grundy Center and South Hardin.

On Jan. 13 the Rebels traveled to Grundy Center for a rivalry matchup with the Spartans.

Though G-R now holds a three-game winning streak over their Grundy counterparts, the last time the two teams met on the hardwood in 2021, the game came down to a one-point decision.

It was not such a close margin in the new year however as the Rebels punched open a 21-12 lead in the first quarter and were able to fend off mid-game advances from the Spartans to finish with a 65-42 win.

Starting guard Isaac Clark drives through contact to the hoop during the first half of Gladbrook-Reinbeck’s road game against Grundy Center on Jan. 13. – Photo by Darvin Graham

“Our goal was to get out there and try to play a little fast in the first quarter and make sure we have enough possessions to figure out what’s going on in the game,” Head Coach Scott Kiburis said. “I thought coming out fast in the first quarter allowed us to play in the lead and when you’re playing from in front it’s a little bit more comfortable for the decisions that you make or dealing with foul trouble and when you can and can’t take kids out of the game.”

The Spartans managed to slow things down in the second quarter and used the length of their forwards, 6-6 Jalen Kirkpatrick and 6-3 Patrick Brown III to clog the lane and disrupt the G-R offense.

The Rebels bent but didn’t break however and found shots and turnovers when they were needed most.

Junior William Kiburis led the team with a triple-double, scoring 20 points while logging 10 assists and 14 rebounds.

One game prior Kiburis reached a landmark scoring milestone that few other players at Gladbrook-Reinbeck have crossed.

William Kiburis elevates over the outstretched arms of Patrick Brown III as he puts up a baseline shot during the Rebels’ 65-42 win over Grundy Center last Thursday. Kiburis led the team in scoring with 20 points against the Spartans. – Photo by Darvin Graham

On Jan. 11 Kiburis scored his 1,000th career point in a home game against Columbus Catholic.

Halfway into the regular season Kiburis is ranked fourth in Class 1A in scoring with 324 points, second in all class in assists with 104 and tied for first in all classes in made free throws with 91.

Against Grundy Center half of Kiburis’ scoring came from the free throw line where he shot 10-of-15.

Junior guard Caleb Egesdal had a hot hand against the Spartans, draining four of his six three-point attempts to end the night with 18 points. Rounding out the scoring for the Rebels was Luke Riffey who scored 12 points but got into foul trouble in the second half and had to be cautious not to over-extend himself.

On the defensive end, the Rebels fully eliminated Spartans leading scorer Brayden Sawyer from the equation, limiting him to no points on five shot attempts.

G-R’s Caleb Egesdal locks down against his opponent, Dexter Whitehill during the Rebels’ first encounter with the Spartans this season. Apart from being one of the most dangerous three-point shooters in the state, Egesdal has provided quickness and endurance on defense for the Rebels. Against GC the junior brought down five rebounds and tallied one steal. – Photo by Darvin Graham

The Spartans were instead forced to take the ball inside to Kirkpatrick who ended as their leading scorer with 12 points.

“I thought we did a really good job executing against the offense they were trying to run, trying to keep them out of the paint and making sure we didn’t lose track of their good shooter,” Coach Kiburis said. “We did a good job of switching and playing a good team defense in our man defense formation.”

Rebels top Tigers by a whisker

In their first conference rematch action of the season, Gladbrook-Reinbeck outlasted South Hardin 61-60 to keep the barnburner title active overtop the conference rivalry.

Looking at the outcome of their first meeting, a sound 81-68 G-R victory, coupled with South Hardin’s 6-6 overall record, it would have been easy to write-off the mid-season rematch game as a formality.

It was however a return to form, as both games the teams played in 2021 ended with a final score margin of no more than two points.

This time out, South Hardin was first out the gate, winning the opening quarter 19-14.

In the second quarter the Rebels began raining buckets from long distance to go on a 15-2 scoring run that would help them not only regain, but command the lead headed into halftime, 37-25.

The Tigers pawed, then clawed their way back through the underbrush of the second half to turn the fourth quarter into a foot race to the finish.

A couple quick lead changes occurred in the fourth quarter but the Rebels again found the poise and shots needed to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

Against South Hardin the Rebels found much of their offense through 6-5 forward Tristen Sanford-Anders.

The senior put up a double-double with 23 points and 15 rebounds as well as a pair of three-pointers to round out a comprehensive performance.

Kiburis and Egesdal colored in the remainder of the Rebels’ offense. Egesdal remained hot from three, scoring 14 points off of 4-of-6 shooting from long distance.

The junior sharpshooter currently is tied for eighth in Class 1A (17th statewide) with 36 made three-pointers. However, of the 22 players with 36 or more three-pointers, Egesdal ranks third in efficiency with a three-point field goal percentage of 48 percent, which might indicate both a team that knows best when and where to get Egesdal his shots and a shooter that knows when to hold them, fold them, walk away and when to run.

Meanwhile Kiburis was held largely away from the free throw line on Monday but still managed 14 points and five assists.

The Rebels kept their operation high and tight against South Hardin, rotating in only two players off the bench in forwards Drew Eilers and Logan Giesking.

“Drew rebounds the ball really well,” Coach Kiburis said. “He hustles all over the place. He can take a charge, he can move the ball around and can roll to the basket really well. Logan also has played well in that reserve role for us. He’s playing more of a perimeter this year than a post, so he’s had to make some adjustments. But he’s had some very big games for us off the bench.”

Kiburis said he also expects sophomore transfer guard Austin Vaverka to have an opportunity to work himself into the rotation in the near future as Vaverka is soon set to become eligible following transfer protocols. Vaverka was the starting point guard for the GMG Wolverines last season and could provide the same kind of depth in the back court that Eilers and Giesking have given the to front court as the Rebels near playoff time.

G-R will face AGWSR (4-6) at home Friday in a conference rematch before heading to Parkersburg Tuesday for a game against Aplington-Parkersburg (11-1).