RSM boys basketball wins state quarterfinal game after slow start

Thursday, March 16, 2023
Remsen St. Mary’s sophomore Collin Homan draws contact against Gladbrook-Reinbeck’s Drew Eilers in Monday’s (March 6) state quarterfinal game. Homan finished with a double-double of 17 points and 16 rebounds in the win. (Sentinel Photo by Allen Hamil)

DES MOINES — The Remsen St. Mary’s boys basketball team overcame a sluggish first 10 minutes of action in their Class 1A state quarterfinal game Monday, March 6, at Wells Fargo Arena to end up beating Gladbrook-Reinbeck by a 57-47 score.

The No. 6 seeded Hawks trailed by 11 with six minutes left in the first half before pulling to a tie with the third-seeded Rebels by halftime.

“I thought our effort in the first quarter was very sub-par. I don’t know if effort is the right word, but it’s just like having the small details, the body position, being all there with the mental part of the game, recognizing guys,” RSM co-Head Coach Justin Ruden said. “We told them at the timeout that we’ve seen better and we know that we can do better.”

Jaxon Bunkers shoots a ball from outside in the team’s quarterfinal round game. He went 4-of-4 from the field, including a pair of 3-pointers, as he finished with 12 points. He also led RSM with four assists and three steals. (Sentinel Photo by Allen Hamil)

William Kiburis, one of the state’s most prolific scorers at 26.5 points per game, got off to a fast start for the Rebels with eight points in the opening quarter. He scored the first bucket of the game and then had a stretch where he scored six consecutive points for the Rebels in the middle of the frame, knocking down a 3-pointer, a jumper and a free throw as the Rebels built a 12-4 lead midway through the first quarter.

The Hawks answered with a 7-0 run to pull within one as Collin Homan scored in the paint and Cael Ortmann followed with two made free throws and then a 3-pointer.

The momentum swung back to the Rebels in the final two minutes of the quarter as they scored the final five points to take a 17-11 lead. Caleb Egesdal, who finished with 14 points for the Rebels, hit a 3-pointer while Luke Riffey, who ended with seven points, added a layup.

Landon Waldschmitt goes up for a layup shot. (Photo by Sadie Regnier)

A couple minutes into the second quarter the Rebels held a 24-13 lead which led to an RSM timeout.

Jaxon Bunkers, who missed much of the first half of the team’s substate win after picking up two quick fouls, faced a similar scenario on Monday. The senior got his second personal foul with just over two minutes left in the first quarter. However, facing a double digit deficit in a win-or-go-home scenario, keeping the team’s leading scorer at 15.5 points per game on the bench wasn’t an ideal plan.

“Coach, I talked him into letting me back in. We switched it up to zone in that second quarter just so I could play a little more passive and not give up dumb fouls,” Bunkers said. “We did that as an adjustment and they weren’t hitting their shots like they were at the beginning.”

RSM’s Cael Ortmann puts the ball up to the hoop over defender Caleb Egesdal. Ortmann finished with 11 points and five rebounds in the game. (Sentinel Photo by Allen Hamil)

The defensive adjustment not only helped Bunkers avoid another foul before halftime, but it also slowed down the Gladbrook-Reinbeck offense. Kiburis, who quickly scored eight points in the first quarter, added just eight more the rest of the game. He ended with 16 points, eight rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocks, all of which led the team, but the Hawks also forced six turnovers against him while making his looks much less easy as the game progressed.

“He’s a great player and so tough to guard with that 6-4 length and be able to hit the midrange shot which is such a lost art in basketball,” Ruden said. “So he made it very tough, but I think our switch to a 2-3 zone limited some of the touches he was able to get and I think the boys, the energy picked up and just recognizing guys a little bit better after that first quarter.”

The Hawks were able to outscore their opponent 13-2 in the last six minutes of the second quarter to be able to tie the game at the intermission. Homan, who pulled down a defensive rebound to begin the possession, got the tying basket in the final minute of the first half at the other end. It was a good performance for the sophomore as he finished with 17 points and 16 rebounds.

The Remsen St. Mary’s bench reacts after the team scores in their quarterfinal game. (Photo by Sadie Regnier)

“I think I gave a lot of effort. I crashed the boards big time,” Homan said. “I was physical down low. I was trying my best to finish through contact and just trying to open up everything else for my teammates.”

Homan ended 6-of-10 shooting from the field and knocked down 5-of-7 from the charity stripe.

Bunkers had the hot hand in the third quarter, scoring eight of his 12 points in the frame. Bunkers didn’t get many shots up in the game, but he finished 4-of-4 from the field including a pair of 3-pointers which bookended the third quarter, first giving the team the lead out of the break and then making it a seven point advantage entering the fourth quarter.

Keaton Harpenau (14) plays defense against a Gladbrook-Reinbeck player. (Photo by Sadie Regnier)

As Bunkers made the most of his limited shots, he was also able to dish out a team-high four assists and finished with three of the team’s five steals. Bunkers said he was comfortable with his role, even as he attempted just four shots from the field in the game.

“I’ve just got to play my role,” he said. “My teammates, they’re going to knock down their shots so I just need to be the one that gets them the open shots and I have trust in them to knock down the shots if I’m not the one shooting them.”

RSM stretched the lead to its biggest with a pair of free throws from Cael Ortmann, making it a 45-35 game with 5:24 left. Ortmann ended with 11 points in the game, with a 5-of-6 showing at the free-throw line along with a pair of treys making up his total. Ortmann said the free throw shooting ability of the Hawks is important as they entered the best in the 1A field with a 73.1 percent success rate for the season. The Hawks made 14-of-18 (77.8 percent) in the quarterfinal win compared to 7-of-14 (50 percent) for the Rebels.

The student section shows their excitement during the game. (Photo by Allen Hamil)

“We know it’s really important. A point in every single game could mean the world so we work on it for how many minutes every practice,” Ortmann said. “We just go up to the line with a lot of confidence and know we’re going to hit it.”

Gladbrook-Reinbeck was able to get as close as six points on a pair of occasions in the final three minutes, but the Hawks answered both times. Ryan Willman, who finished with six points and a team-high four blocks, got a layup with just under two minutes left to bump the lead back to eight.

After the Rebels cut it to six once more, Alex Schroeder answered with a pair of free throws, part of his nine points in the game.

Coaches Scott Ruden, Justin Ruden, Jarrod Schott and Colin Schroeder during the quarterfinal game. (Photo by Allen Hamil)

The team’s final points came on a breakaway layup from Landon Waldschmitt as he made his only shot attempt of the game.

Gladbrook-Reinbeck, in their first state tournament since finishing as the Class 1A runner-up in 2017, finishes the season with a 23-3 record. They graduate their top three scorers.

Remsen St. Mary’s will take a 23-2 record into Wednesday’s (March 8) state semifinal round game against defending champion North Linn (25-0).

“Just getting past that Monday game, getting to that Wednesday game is huge,” Ortmann said. “We’ve never made it to the championship before. We’ve got one more game to the championship, but we’ve got to stick to it. We can’t look ahead. We’ve got to look to North Linn who is a very good basketball team. They’ve been down here before and they’re really well-coached.”

Losing to North Linn in last year’s state semifinal round will give the Hawks plenty of motivation, but Ruden said it won’t be easy to avenge the loss.

“I think everything’s got to be clicking against North Linn. They are one of the better programs in the state winning a 2A championship and a 1A championship,” Ruden said. “We know Mike (Hilmer, North Linn Head Coach) is going to have us well scouted, but I think the boys just got to come out and it just comes down to us just playing our basketball, executing and playing defense.”