CEDAR RAPIDS — You hate to be overly presumptuous. Anything can happen.
But, gee whiz, just go ahead and give the Linn-Mar Lions the Class 4A state basketball championship trophy right now. When you play without your two starting big men and still beat the 10th-ranked team in Class 4A on its home floor, you’re just that good.
State championship, one of the best teams the Metro has seen in awhile good.
“It’s what we want. It’s what we’ve worked so hard for,” said Matt Bohannon after his team’s 70-64 win over Cedar Rapids Jefferson last night. “There’s a lot of kids that work for it, a lot of kids that dream about it. But I don’t think there’s as many as there are in our locker room who absolutely want it. That’s what we live and die for.”
What a truly remarkable performance from Bohannon and guard mate Marcus Paige. They scored 30 points each with almost equally identical shooting nights: Bohannon 9 of 16, Paige 9 of 15. Bohannon hit six 3-pointers, playing every second of the game. Paige added five treys, sitting only about 30 seconds.
They were torrid from the start, helping Linn-Mar (20-0) to a 15-4 lead, and never led up with an array of 3-point shots and drives to the hoop. The Lions never trailed in a game they played without 6-foot-7 center Josh Montague and 6-6 forward Ian McBrayer. Montague (knee injury) and McBrayer (groin injury) average 20 points between them and are Linn-Mar’s top two rebounders.
Coach Chris Robertson said they are day to day, with the goal to have them back in time for the start of district in a little over a week.
“After practice last night, me and Marcus were shooting,” said Bohannon, a Northern Iowa signee. “Coach came over to us and said ‘You two might have to play a bigger role. Pick up the scoring a little bit, pick up the shooting.’ That was something we kind of took to heart tonight.”
“Coach kind of pulled us aside and told us we had to step up with all of our inside game being out,” said point guard Paige, the North Carolina commit, who actually played down low in the Lions’ 2-3 zone much of the night. “We were just trying to take the initiative and pick our guys up. We were aggressive early, and we were able to sustain that throughout the whole game.”
Not even another terrific game from Wisconsin recruit Jarrod Uthoff could save Jefferson (14-5). The 6-foot-8 big man hit four 3-pointers, had 26 points, 14 rebounds and a handful of blocks, keeping the J-Hawks close with 21 second-half points. Jeff was within three in the final minute, but Linn-Mar (specifically, Bohannon and Paige) hit enough free throws.
“Paige and Bohannon, those two guys just really played great,” Uthoff said. “They had some other guys step up, too, and they got the best of us.”
“We knew it was going to take those two to step up,” Robertson said. “But I would not have expected 30 from both of them.”
Linn-Mar concludes its season Thursday night at home against Class 3A 10th-ranked Dubuque Wahlert. Jefferson, which had starting point guard Taylor Olson back in the lineup for the first time in two weeks, ends Thursday night at Prairie.
Here is the game boxscore:
AT C.R. JEFFERSON
LINN-MAR (70): Matt Bohannon 9-15 6-8 30, Shane Benton 2-4 0-2 5, Mason Krusie 0-1 2-2 2, Michael Thul 1-2 0-2 2, Marcus Paige 9-16 7-10 30, Derik Gogg 1-4 0-2 2, Nick Soyer 0-2 1-2 1, Matthew Lassen 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 21-44 16-28 70.
C.R. JEFFERSON (64): Alec Saunders 3-9 7-8 13, Jarrod Uthoff 9-14 4-4 26, Taylor Olson 2-11 2-4 6, Ky Kramer 2-7 0-0 6, Tyler Hemphill 0-0 2-2 2, Tyler Meiborg 4-7 3-6 11, Alexander Denny 0-0 0-0 0, Michael Rooney 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-48, 18-24 64.
Halftime — Linn-Mar 32, Jefferson 29. 3-point goals — Linn-Mar 12-20 (Bohannon 6-10, Benton 1-1, Paige 5-9), Jefferson 6-21 (Olson 0-4, Uthoff 4-5, Saunders 0-2, Kramer 2-5, Meiborg 0-3). Rebounds — Linn-Mar 28 (Bohannon 7), Jefferson 30 (Uthoff 14). Total fouls — Linn-Mar 22, Jefferson 24. Fouled out — Gogg, Hemphill. Turnovers — Linn-Mar 6, Jefferson 7.