WATERLOO - Linn-Mar's boys' basketball squad braved rugged, snowy terrain en route to Waterloo Tuesday.
Upon arrival at East High's gym, the Lions' reception was equally icy. East, after all, was eager to end a slight losing streak.
In the end, the Trojans couldn't quite steer out of their skid.
Conversely, second-ranked Linn-Mar displayed the drive you'd expect from a defending state champ as it outlasted East, 72-64, in an intense, back-and-forth battle.
"Our guys were tremendous," said Linn-Mar coach Chris Robertson. "This oughta teach 'em they can win - this is a very good team we beat on (its) floor."
Fred J. Miller Gymnasium brimmed with talent Tuesday night. Division I prospect Trice Scott orchestrated East's offense. Meanwhile, Linn-Mar was led by the likes of Grant Gibbs, a Gonzaga signee, and Alex Weldon, a rising star in the recruiting ranks who committed to Drake last summer.
And the stars on hand didn't disappoint. Linn-Mar received 24 points from Zach Bohannon, while the hosts were paced by Scott's game-high 26 points.
Yet, a severe injury to Linn-Mar's Gibbs cast a pall on the night's early proceedings.
With 2 minutes, 2 seconds remaining in the opening quarter, Gibbs got bumped on the head while attempting a dunk, and the subsequent hard landing left his left eye bloodied and his right wrist severely injured.
The Linn-Mar star didn't depart until an ambulance arrived.
"It's pretty serious," said Linn-Mar's Robertson. "I think he broke his (right) wrist for sure, and then he's gonna get some stitches in his eye.
"So I'm proud of our guys," the coach continued, "because that's a big guy to lose on the road, in a hostile environment."
Gibbs' gruesome-looking injury immediately sucked most of the energy out of the gym.
East's Scott nevertheless put on a show early. The cat-quick guard poured in 15 first-half points and concluded the second-quarter with a slick steal followed by a buzzer-beating bankshot. That handed the hosts a 40-31 advantage.
Linn-Mar looked understandably deflated heading into the locker room. Thus, East (9-4 overall, 5-4 Mississippi Valley Conference) appeared to have the upper hand.
But the Lions (15-1) broke out of the halftime break with fire in their eyes.
"I don't think we matched their toughness when we came out in the second half," noted East coach Steve McGraw, whose squad dropped its fourth straight decision. "We weren't strong with the ball, and we made some errors and let them back in it in a hurry."
An 8-1 Linn-Mar run midway through the fourth quarter turned the tide. The visitors' Weldon buried a 3-pointer from the top of the key to supply the back-breaker, giving his squad a 64-56 lead with 3:23 remaning. That, plus ceaseless trips to the foul line - Linn-Mar made 33 of 47 free throws - provided a silver-lining for a Linn-Mar team that lost its star to an ugly injury.
In the other locker room, McGraw noted that his squad's shortcomings are easily correctable.
"I thought we played pretty well," said the East coach, whose club hit 16 of 18 free throws. "But we did a poor job of guarding as far as help, and we fouled too many times."
Contact Kelly Beaton at (319) 291-1456 or email@example.com
LINN-MAR (72) - Grant Gibbs 1-1 0-2 2, Nate Hutcheson 4-8 5-8 13, Zach Bohannon 4-10 14-15 24, Ethan Benton 3-3 1-2 7, Alex Weldon 2-6 8-10 14, Drew Crawford 2-3 0-0 6, Mitch Mahmens 0-0 2-2 2, Will Roth 0-0 4-8 4, Grant Mahoney 0-0 0-0 0, Chris John 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 16-31 33-47 72.
EAST (64) - Darius Washington 0-0 0-0 0, Kjay Jackson 3-4 0-0 6, Trice Scott 6-14 11-12 26, Jaron Nash 4-6 4-4 14, Devin Hoskins 3-4 1-2 7, Quinton VanArsdale 3-3 0-0 7, Joel Riley 1-3 0-0 2, Cotrell Smith 1-3 0-0 2, Zac Clark 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-37 16-18 64.
Linn-Mar 13 18 14 27 - 72
East 16 24 10 14 - 64
3-point goals - Linn-Mar 6 (Bohannon 2, Weldon 2, Crawford 2); East 6 (Scott 3). Total fouls - Linn-Mar 15, East 25. Fouled out - Washington, Scott (East). Technical fouls - East bench.
LINN-MAR SOPHS 79, EAST SOPHS 62
LINN-MAR - Max Carlson 5, Pat Dayton 2, Shane Benton 24, Ryan Jennings 9, Matt Bohannon 10, Jordan Atwater 2, Keith Brown 8, Darin Stokes 7, Grant Martin 2, Andrew Ward 8.
EAST - Tevin Browne 8, DaJour Sawyers 12, DeJoni Norris 24, JeMarkkus Evans 6, Jerrone Mabry 10, Nick Schutte 2.