Rebels run dry at the Well

Remsen St. Mary’s zone, size flummoxes Gladbrook-Reinbeck in state quarterfinal

William Kiburis converts a steal into a breakaway dunk during the second half of the 2023 Class 1A state quarterfinal basketball game at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines. PHOTO BY NOAH ROHLFING

Gladbrook-Reinbeck was flying early in Monday afternoon’s Class 1A state basketball quarterfinal at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines. Jumping out to a 9-2 lead in the opening minutes, leading 17-11 after one quarter and holding a 24-13 edge two minutes into the second, things were falling into place for the No. 3 seeded Rebels against No. 6 seed Remsen St. Mary’s.

But after a timeout, the Hawks came out in an extended 2-3 zone — a look they didn’t show much during the season as a mostly man-to-man team.

Gladbrook-Reinbeck hadn’t seen a zone much, either — and the Rebels found creating open looks against their opponents’ length and rotation difficult for the rest of the first half. A 13-2 closing run from Remsen St. Mary’s ended the half at 26-26 and set up a strong start to the third, and G-R couldn’t bounce back in a 57-47 loss. The season ends with a 23-3 record for the Rebels.

As soon as the zone was out there, the Rebels had trouble. With the size and length advantage firmly in Remsen St. Mary’s corner, passing lanes were fleeting and the team’s normal zone-busting actions didn’t create enough space against a defense head coach Scott Kiburis compared to Syracuse in its intensity.

“They’re long and they covered lots of space,” Kiburis said. “We made a couple of adjustments too late, we needed them in the second quarter to run our zone and be more effective in our zone offense. We ran it but we didn’t get anything out of it.

Gladbrook-Reinbeck senior William Kiburis, center, holds the Rebels’ Class 1A state basketball participant trophy after a 57-47 loss to Remsen-St. Mary’s in Monday’s quarterfinals at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines. PHOTO BY NOAH ROHLFING

“It was tough to get those shots on the perimeter because they were extending themselves really high and then the back line was extending itself kind of Syracuse style. I was impressed by their defense.”

Caleb Egesdal was able to find space for a couple of threes but they rimmed out, while Luke Riffey and Isaac Clark were unable to get looks from outside. William Kiburis, who had eight of G-R’s first 12 points, was crowded in the lane and struggled to get a head of steam going. The Hawks were also taking away one of G-R’s pet plays in a baseline bounce pass from William to Drew Eilers in the low post, crashing the weakside defender into the paint and on numerous occasions tipping the pass. G-R turned the ball over 12 times in total, with William committing six.

At the start of the second half the Hawks went back to man-to-man, but the struggles in the half-court for G-R were still present. Shooting just 41.5 percent from the floor over the course of the game, open looks were rare and often resulted in a miss, a defensive rebound for the Hawks and a basket at the other end. A 5-0 run to start the half put the Hawks in front for good, and they led 41-34 after three quarters.

Egesdal said they just couldn’t find the basket after the first 10 minutes of play.

“We got open shots, just couldn’t knock a couple down and had some empty possessions,” Egesdal said. “I think if we converted more we could have gotten them out of the zone earlier.”

G-R starters (from left) Drew Eilers, Luke Riffey, William Kiburis and Caleb Egesdal look on from the bench in the waning moments of the Rebels’ 57-47 loss to Rem- sen-St. Mary’s on Monday. PHOTO BY NOAH ROHLFING

Rebounding was a big issue for the Rebels in the second half. Losing the rebound battle 31-22 and giving up 10 offensive rebounds, Remsen St. Mary’s height advantage was born out in the consistent difficulties G-R had in closing out defensive possessions — with Collin Homan in particular (game-high 17 points and 16 rebounds, seven of them on the offensive end) proving to be a nuisance.

Scott said it made a comeback nearly impossible when the Rebels kept giving up second-chance possessions.

“I thought we actually played pretty good defense and worked on what we did, but Holman was getting second opportunities with a lot of effort,” Scott said. “Then they would run offense a lot of times. It’s not like they were always scoring out of it, they would run offense and we’d have to play defense again. That’s hard because it’s hard to get out in transition if you can’t get a defensive rebound.”

Egesdal buried two threes with 2:30 left to cut the deficit to 51-45, and he made four for the game, scoring 14 total points in his final appearance for G-R. William made two free throws in the final minute to keep G-R within six at 53-47, his 16th and final points of the night. He added eight rebounds, four assists and two blocks to his statline. Riffey scored seven and Clark added six. Jaxon Bunkers scored 12 for the Hawks before fouling out and Cael Ortmann finished with 11.

In the end, after a hot start and promise early on, the Rebels came crashing back down to earth and out of the state tournament. But still, William said, despite the pain in defeat it was a successful season with a trip to state after two straight years of substate heartbreak.

“This is something that, ever since I was a kid in fourth and fifth grade, watching my dad’s teams come down here, I wanted to do with my own team,” William said. “Glad I could cross it off my senior year. Obviously, every team wants to come out with the win so we fell short. Can’t do much about it.”