Rebels head back to state!

Gladbrook-Reinbeck boys’ basketball upsets No. 10 Kee in 1A Substate 6 final

Gladbrook-Reinbeck’s Isaac Clark, far right, waves the state qualifier banner in celebration of the Rebels’ 52-49 win over Kee in last Saturday’s Class 1A Substate 6 boys basketball final in Oelwein. The Rebels’ upset of the No. 10 Kee Hawks earned G-R a return trip to the state tournament for the second year in a row. PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE

OELWEIN — When the Gladbrook-Reinbeck boys’ basketball team beat 10th-ranked Kee Community in last Saturday’s Class 1A Substate 6 final, only the Rebels expected it.

It’s those same expectations that got G-R that far in the first place.

Senior point guard Isaac Clark scored a career-high 21 points and Gladbrook-Reinbeck earned a return trip to Wells Fargo Arena with a 52-49 triumph over Kee in front of a capacity crowd Saturday night at Oelwein High School.

The Rebels (21-5) led by as many as 12 in the first quarter, trailed by as much as six in the third period, and staked their claim to a spot in the state tournament by just being a little bit better down the stretch than their counterparts.

The lead changed hands only twice throughout the contest, the last of which being perhaps the biggest play of the game. Austen Mathern’s long 3-pointer broke a 45-all tie with 3 minutes, 30 seconds remaining, giving G-R the needed cushion to see this one through.


“They had built up a six-point lead and we just look at our coach and his hand’s raised, he says ‘calm down, we’re good, let’s get composed,'” said G-R junior forward Michael Boyd. “Drew (Eilers) drives baseline and hits Mathern from half court and he knocks it down.”

It was the last field goal Gladbrook-Reinbeck needed to knock off the No. 10 Hawks (22-3) and get back to state for the fifth time in school history. Boyd made two free throws and Clark went 1-for-2 twice, the last of which came in a tenuous moment for the Rebels.

Protecting a 51-49 lead, Clark missed the first but made the second free throw with 7.3 seconds left, and Kee took a timeout to set up its final play. Jordan Cota, the Hawks’ junior forward who had already scored 24 points, put up a long 3-pointer that fell short with time nearly expired.

Clark had only to inbound the ball to Mathern one last time, running the final four-tenths of a second off the clock to send the Rebels into jubilation. They’ll face No. 2 seed Bellevue Marquette (25-1) on March 4 at 2 p.m. in the 1A state quarterfinals at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.

“It’s fantastic,” said Clark, who made three of his career-high five 3-pointers during the Rebels’ momentous first quarter. “At the start of the season, no one thought we would ever be here with the guys we lost last year. During the season we obviously progressed but still I don’t think anybody thought we would be this far.”


Gladbrook-Reinbeck was fueled throughout by the doubt that surrounded a team that graduated the program’s second-leading scorer from last year’s 23-3 state qualifier. But motivation can only carry a team so far — it has to perform in the moment, and G-R did once again.

“It was really nice to have all four of the guys on our team were here: Luke Sienknecht, Caleb Egesdal, Luke Riffey, Will Kiburis — it was great to see them,” Boyd said. “Them being here supporting us proves that they really cared about more than just themselves and they care about the program and it’s really good to have them here.

“It just feels great to get back (to state).”

Saturday’s game was Gladbrook-Reinbeck’s 10th substate final in 13 seasons under head coach Scott Kiburis, and it was as hotly contested as each of the last three.

The Rebels started off strong, generating offense from defense and jumping out to an 8-0 lead. Three-pointers for Clark and Mathern boosted the early 8-0 advantage, and another 9-0 run prompted Kee’s first timeout of the night already behind 17-7.


“They really get after it on defense,” Hawks head coach Jeff Cota said of the Rebels. “I don’t know if we were quite ready for that kind of defensive pressure. We tried to tell the kids to hang in there.”

Kee weathered the opening exchanges and got back into the game behind its own defense, as the tall, lanky Hawks got hands in passing lanes and created turnovers and transition baskets of their own.

Three-pointers by Boyd, Clark and Mathern helped the Rebels hold on for a seven-point halftime lead, 34-27, but Kee came out of halftime with the hot hand. The Hawks got three 3-pointers to drop in the third period, the last of which by Cota gave Kee its first lead, 38-36. A five-minute scoring drought for Gladbrook-Reinbeck led to Kee’s 12-0 run that changed the atmosphere in the gym.

Cota cashed in another trey to start the fourth quarter and the Rebels were down 45-41. The Hawks, playing in their program’s first-ever substate final, couldn’t match Gladbrook-Reinbeck’s experience and composure down the stretch.

The Rebels used a 7-0 run to regain the lead and scraped together just enough free throws to keep it.


“I do think experience helps us out,” said coach Kiburis. “They have experience in all sports: state soccer championship game, the Dome in football — they enjoy the moment.”

And some of them are content in their roles. Hudson Clark scored six points, but his most impactful play was knocking the ball off Kee point guard Dalton Mudderman’s foot and out of bounds. It led to free throws for Boyd and a four-point G-R lead, 51-47, with 17.7 seconds remaining.

“We just had to be calm, composed,” said Boyd. “We knew if we got to the end of the game and we had to hit free throws, we had full confidence everyone on the floor could hit them so we just had to be out there and play.”

The Rebels were 7-of-13 (53.8 percent) at the charity stripe for the game, shooting slightly under their season average (58.3), but it was enough on this night against a team averaging 63.9 points per game.

Cota finished with a game-high 24 points to lead Kee, and Mudderman finished with 17, but the rest of the Hawks combined to score just eight points.


“This is probably the best defensive team we’ve played all year I would say pressure-wise man-to-man,” coach Cota said of G-R. “They just really get after it. We had a couple turnovers that were maybe unforced that in the end may have cost us. You’ve gotta give them credit for that tonight.”

Behind Clark’s career-high 21, Mathern finished with 11 points while Eilers and Boyd scored seven points apiece. Hudson Clark added six points and six steals, while Eilers had a game-high eight rebounds. Austin Vaverka had two assists in a reserve role.

“I think we had a lot of motivation together,” said Eilers. “A lot of us have a lot of grit and want to go win everything. We have a lot of very tough guys and the bench kids who don’t get to play in games are always pushing us in practice so I think a lot of credit goes to them.

“Four of our five losses were close games, so I think we’re getting more used to close games and we handled it pretty well tonight I thought.”

Next week on Monday, March 4, the Rebels are scheduled to take on Marquette Catholic (21-5) at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines in the Class 1A State Quarterfinal. Tipoff is set for 2 p.m.

The Sun Courier will feature coverage of the game in next week’s edition.