Defending champion North Linn up next for Hawks
No. 6-seed Remsen St. Mary’s (23-2) vs. No. 2-seed North Linn (25-0) Wednesday, 7:15 p.m., at Wells Fargo Arena
For the second year in a row, Remsen St. Mary’s and North Linn will meet in the state semifinal round.
The two teams have formed a bit of a bond over the years, both making the trip to state seven years in a row and also staying at the same hotel.
Last year’s game saw the Lynx use a 13-2 third quarter advantage to come away with a 56-46 win over the Hawks. North Linn then went on to win the championship in their next game.
RSM co-Head Coach Justin Ruden said beating North Linn would make this group stand apart from the rest of the school’s state tournament teams.
“You’re looking for things that you can do to set you apart. I told them that’s the one thing, we haven’t beat North Linn,” Ruden said. “They’re the team that knocked us out last year. For us to get to the state championship game is something this school hasn’t done. I said that would be a big step for these seniors and it would be a great way to go out.”
The Lynx graduated three of their top four point scorers from last year’s roster, but their high-scoring offense hasn’t lost a beat. The Lynx entered state with the top scoring average in the field averaging over 84 points per game.
Tate Haughenbury, the captain of last year’s All-Tournament team, averages 16.7 points per game. He’s one of four players on the team to average at least 14 points per game. Haughenbury is a 6-5 senior forward who, along with leading the team in scoring, is one of the top players in the team’s other statistical categories. He leads the team with 139 assists and is tied for the team lead with 66 steals. He is second on the roster with 175 rebounds and 17 blocks.
Junior Ty Pflughaupt adds some more size as a 6-4 forward. He leads the team with 200 rebounds and 39 blocks and is tied for most steals with Haughenbury. He averages 16.3 points per game.
6-1 sophomore guard Mason Mechen averages 15.4 points per game as he is one of the team’s top 3-point shooters. He leads the team with 52 triples while making them at a success rate of over 47 percent. He is also the team’s best free throw shooter with an 81 percent success rate.
Bechen is second on the team with 112 assists and third in rebounds (110) and steals (54).
6-1 senior guard Ben Wheatley averages 14.4 points per game while 5-10 junior guard Breckyn Betenbender provides an additional 8.3 points per game.
Those starting five will get most of the minutes as in their quarterfinal round game three of the starters played all 32 minutes and the other two played at least 26.
Along with being one of the best scoring teams in the state, the Lynx have been pretty good on defense as well. They entered the state tournament allowing 37 points per game, the best among the 1A qualifiers. However, there may be some weaknesses in the defense as over the last four games, all against teams with winning records, the Lynx have given up an average of nearly 56 points per game.
On the other side, RSM entered the state tournament giving up an average of just over 42 points per game. Their most recent games haven’t deviated nearly as much against quality competition in the postseason as they have given up an overage of just over 45 points per game in their last four games, all against teams with winning records.
Along with focusing on the defensive end, the Hawks will try not to be sped up on the offensive end of the court and run their offense.
“We know that we need to come in and play good defense,” RSM sophomore Collin Homan said. “We’re going to have to keep our composure because those guys press the full court. We know we just have to play at our own pace and just dominate down low.”
Senior Jaxon Bunkers added the team can’t have a slow start like in their quarterfinal round game.
“We cannot come out like we did in that first quarter of this game,” Bunkers said after the quarterfinal win. “We need to get on them early and then mainly play our own game. Don’t let them rush us and get us out of our groove.”
The winner of Wednesday’s semifinal will play in the Class 1A state championship game at 1 p.m., Friday.