CEDAR RAPIDS — It had been a long time between wins over Linn-Mar for the Cedar Rapids Prairie boys’ basketball team.
Not since 2002, a 20-game span, had the Hawks defeated the Lions.
That all changed Friday night at Prairie.
Senior guard Kentrel Smith scored 11 of his game-high 15 points in the fourth quarter as Prairie broke away for a convincing, 46-33, win.
Coach James Moses’ Hawks (3-5, 2-2 Mississippi Valley Conference) used a pesky defense to stymie the Lions (2-5, 1-3).
“This was just an awesome team win,” Moses said. “We got a chance to platoon a lot of different people into the game and we took advantage of our opportunities.
“I told them that our best offense was our defense. We felt our defense helped create our offensive opportunities. We were tied 15-15 at halftime and a little play here, a little play there, a little spark here, a little spark there made all the difference.”
Despite having a decided size advantage on the inside, the Lions weren’t able to get many opportunities around the rim. Prairie’s quickness and physical style had Linn-Mar out of sync for most of the game.
“They were tougher,” said Lions’ Coach Chris Robertson of the Hawks. “They were clearly more aggressive and then we just sort of backed down. It’s really disappointing.”
Robertson tried all sorts of combinations without much success. The Lions played 12 players but only three — seniors Matt Lassen, Derik Gogg and Jimmy Roth — were able to score.
The scoring was much more spread out for the Hawks, but it was Smith who took control in the fourth quarter. Prairie held a 24-23 lead entering the final eight minutes. That’s when Smith caught fire, scoring the first seven points of the quarter, the last three on a drive and a free throw after being fouled. That ballooned the Prairie lead to 31-23. JoJo Simpson followed with a lay-in off a steal to complete the 9-0 Hawks run.
The Lions got no closer than eight the rest of the way.
Moses couldn’t say enough about Smith’s effort.
“Kentrel, when he wants to put it all together, he can do a lot of the things you saw out on the floor tonight,” Moses said. “Those are the kinds of things we want from Kenny, but we also want our other players to push Kenny. He definitely played big for us tonight.
Smith got plenty of support. Senior Jace Hanna chipped in with 10 points as the Hawks scored 22 points in the final eight minutes to pull away.
All three Lions who scored finished in double figures. Roth had 12, Lassen 11 and Gogg 10.
Robertson knows his team has some work to do over the holiday break.
“We need some leadership,” he said. “We have some young guys and we need somebody to step up and take that role. We’ve had some great leaders in the past but we are definitely searching for that guy right now.”