LE GRAND - Who knew make-up games could be so much fun, right? In a highly-anticipated matchup between the two top teams in the North Iowa Cedar League West Division, the Class 1A No. 4 Gladbrook-Reinbeck boys' basketball team edged out a 76-73 win against a yearning and burning East Marshall team Thursday night. The game was supposed to be played earlier in the month, but with a snowstorm hindering driving conditions, players, parents and coaches had to wait a couple more weeks for one of the better showdowns in the conference. "The coaches really want the league titles, because that's hard to do," said Gladbrook-Reinbeck head coach Scott Kiburis. "We've been pretty successful. It's really big to win a game here in their place. It's a big game for us ... the coaches know how big it is." The Rebels (12-2, 8-0 NICL West) held off a late rally from the Mustangs (9-4, 6-2 NICL West) that saw Ty DeBondt score 13 of the final 15 Mustang points on four 3-pointers and a layup off a stolen inbounds pass. Gladbrook-Reinbeck's Joe Smoldt went for 28 points, on five 3-pointers and five more field-goals, while going 3-for-5 from the night. He also led the Rebels with four assists. Tyler Pierce showed off his talents down low, busting his way for 20 points and 13 rebounds. The big men for East Marshall were led by Zaine Leedom, who had 10 points on seven field goals and Zane Johnson, who tallied 21 points, while making a living from the free-throw line (8-for-12). The Rebels led from 14-13 on, after Smoldt hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to head into the second period. They stretched the lead to as much as eight points a couple times, but the Mustangs were able to battle back. "They're a good team, top to bottom a good team," said East Marshall head coach Adam Bauder. "Smoldt played really good. But Eli Anderson, and I'm biased, I'd put my money on him, if not the best, one of the best on-ball defenders on our side of the conference. Almost every shot Smoldt took, he had a hand up. We told him there's nothing more you can do than what we ask you to do. And he did it." The Mustangs started hot, jumping out to a 9-2 lead and holding Smoldt to just five points in the final 2 minutes and 32 seconds of the first quarter. The Rebels got out and running on an 11-1 run of their own to start the second quarter with help from Smoldt and Pierce. "It's great to play in the lead," Kiburis said. "You feel more comfortable getting into your substitution pattern and you can look at your kids and know when to call a timeout and sub some kids out. It's harder to do when you're losing. I thought Joe and Ty Pierce made a bunch of plays. We got the ball into Ty Pierce a number of times and he came up huge." Kiburis gave credit to a more diverse offense, finding big numbers from Smoldt, Pierce and Caden Kickbush, who hit two 3s to propel him to 10 points. The end to the first half indeed set-up a thrilling second act as DeBondt hit one of his six 3s with seven seconds remaining. But on an inbounds pass, Jackson Kiburis attempted a full-court shot, which he was fouled on and sent him to the free-throw line. Kiburis finished with a career-high eight points on a 3-pointer and 3-for-5 night from the line. It was mistakes like the last-second foul that Bauder said is the only thing keeping his Mustangs from taking that next step toward being an elite team in the state. "Mental. Mental. We talked about all of our losses were mental issues down the stretch," Bauder said. "It's not physical. Our guys physically would match up against anybody. Physically. Mentally, we're just not prepared one way or another. We let some outside things get in our head. We let the moment get too big. We're maybe a little bit scared of making a mistake. "Those are the things you've got to get over if you want to win these tight games against these kinds of teams." The moment will get bigger on Feb. 7 when East Marshall heads to Gladbrook-Reinbeck for a rematch that will likely be just as important to the conference race as Thursday night's was in Le Grand. Tip-off time for that game is scheduled for 7:45 p.m.
Gladbrook-Reinbeck 76, East Marshall 73 At Le Grand GLADBROOK-REINBECK (12-2, 8-0) - Walker Thede 1 0-1 2, Kaden Kickbush 3 2-2 10, Joe Smoldt 10 3-5 28, Matt Roeding 2 1-4 5, Tyler Pierce 5 10-13 20, Matt Johanssen 0 0-0 0, Thomas Mussig 0 0-0 0, Jackson Kiburis 2 3-5 8, Mason Skovard 1 1-2 3. TOTAL 24 20-32 76.
EAST MARSHALL (9-4, 6-2) - Zaine Leedom 7 0-1 16, Dru Boliver 3 2-2 8, Zane Johnson 6 8-12 21, Eli Anderson 1 0-2 2, Ty DeBondt 8 0-0 22, Zach Finders 0 0-0 0, Justin Ridout 1 0-0 2. TOTALS 28 12-19 73.
G-R 14 23 19 20 - 76 EM 13 19 23 19 - 73
3-Point Goals-G-R 8 (Smoldt 5, Kickbush 2, Kiburis), EM 9 (DeBondt 6, Leedom 2, Johnson). Totals Fouls-G-R 14, EM 22. Fouled Out-Skovgard.