DES MOINES — Late in the third quarter of Monday’s Class 1A boys’ basketball state tournament opener, Gladbrook-Reinbeck guard Caden Kickbush got hit in the stomach so hard, he had to go throw up in the Rebel locker room.
By game’s end, he was the one making Lynnville-Sully players sick.
Kickbush scored nine of his 12 points in the fourth quarter, including four consecutive free throws in the final 20 seconds, leading Gladbrook-Reinbeck to a 53-50 win in the opening round.
“I couldn’t really breathe,” Kickbush said of the belly shot. “I was just trying to get off the court because I had to go to the locker room just to throw up. As soon as I got it out I just had to get back on the court. I knew they needed me.”
He was right.
Despite a typically dominant performance from Joe Smoldt, who put in 29 points, the Rebels didn’t provide their star player with much help in the first 24 minutes.
The Hawks, who stayed in the game thanks largely to a 44-22 rebounding edge, took their first lead at 38-37 on a Tanner Foster 3-pointer with 4:51 to play.
After switching hands on four consecutive possessions, the lead came back to the Rebels for good when Kickbush hit a 3 to make it 42-40 with 3:43 remaining.
The Hawks continued to convert on open looks, but the G-R offense responded nearly every time, scoring on seven of its final eight possessions.
And in the closing seconds, Kickbush, an 87 percent foul shooter coming in, closed the door, sending the Rebels to the next round.
“He was the guy we wanted on the line,” Gladbrook-Reinbeck Coach Scott Kiburis said.
Despite the poor rebounding effort (the Rebels gave up 19 offensive boards), G-R held on thanks in part to a stingy defense that forced 18 turnovers.
Mason Skovgard had four steals and Walker Thede finished with three, as the Rebels went plus-12 in turnover margin.
“We had some key elements at the end,” Kiburis said. “Some clutch plays, a clutch steal, clutch backdoor layup, free throws, a 3.”
Making their third-consecutive appearance at the state tournament, Gladbrook-Reinbeck players say they’ve felt little to no pressure in late, big-game moments in recent weeks, and it showed with how they closed things out Monday.
“We’re just so used to everything that’s happening,” said Kickbush.
And after routinely winning in dominant fashion in the regular season, the Rebels, who were taken to overtime by Wapsie Valley in substate play, say continuing to play in tight situations is only going to help as they attempt to win a second state title in three years.
“I think that says a lot about this team and how relentless we are,” Smoldt said. “Even if they go on a run, we have the confidence that we can go on a run back at them. It just shows we’re comfortable in these situations, in these big games.”
Fourth-seeded Gladbrook-Reinbeck will take on top-seeded North Linn in the semifinals at 10:30 a.m. Thursday.
The Lynx survived a serious test from No. 8 seed Maple Valley-Anthon-Oto before winning, 54-49.
Glad.-Rein. 53, Lynn.-Sully 50
LYNNVILLE-SULLY (24-2) — Brevin Hansen 6 1-2 15, Jesse Van Wyk 5 3-5 13, Tyler Van Zante 3 0-0 6, Tanner Foster 3 1-4 11, Rylan James 3 1-2 7, Ryan Hofer 0 0-0 0, John Trettin 0 0-0 0, Corey McCoy 0 0-0 0. Totals 20 6-13 50.
GLADBROOK-REINBECK (25-2) — Walker Thede 2 1-2 5, Caden Kickbush 3 5-6 12, Joe Smoldt 29, Matt Roeding 1 0-0 2, Tyler Pierce 0 1-2 1, Thomas Mussig 1 0-0 2, Mason Skovgard 1 0-1 2. Totals 19 11-16 53.
Lynnville-Sully 9 13 9 19 — 50
Gladbrook-Rein. 12 12 11 18 — 53
3-point goals—Lynnville-Sully 4 (Hansen 2, Foster 2), Gladbrook-Reinbeck 4 (Smoldt 3, Kickbush 1). Tiotal fouls—Lynnville-Sully 16, Gladbrook-Reinbeck 12. Fouled out—Van Zante