REINBECK - The Rebels were never safe until the final buzzer sounded Friday night in their regular-season finale.
In a rather pedestrian night, the Class 1A No. 4 Gladbrook-Reinbeck boys' basketball team was able to withstand attack after attack from Ankeny Christian Academy, and came away with a 65-51 win, concluding its regular-season schedule.
For the fourth consecutive year, the Rebels (20-2) recorded a 20-win season. During that stretch, the Rebels recorded a perfect 28-0 campaign on their way to a Class 1A state title in 2014-15, as well as a fourth-place finish last year.
Gladbrook-Reinbeck’s Caden Kickbush drives in for a layup over top of Ankeny Christian Academy’s Jayce Goergen (5) on Friday night in Reinbeck. Kickbush finished with a team-high 20 points in the Rebels’ 65-51 win.
Photo by Stephen Koenigsfeld
The quest for 20 wins didn't come easy by any means, as the Eagles (15-6) contested the Rebels every step of the way.
"To be honest, our defense was a little shaky toward the end," said senior Tyler Pierce. "I don't know if it was our effort or if we were starting to get tired. But our defensive rebounding was a little iffy. If we would've rebounded better, the score would've been a little different."
Pierce led the Rebels with 10 rebounds and posted nine points inside. Caden Kickbush took over the scoring role with a team-best 20 points on two 3-pointers and five more field goals. Joe Smoldt made a team-best three 3-pointers on his way to 17 points.
"They had a good strategy on Joe," G-R head coach Scott Kiburis said. "They were basically leaving two of our guys open and sitting him in the lane. So we had to spread it out a little bit; Joe gave it up and Caden got hot, and [nearly] had four 3s, two of them his toe was on the line. So that was a big deal, getting some other guys some shots."
Smoldt came in to Friday night's game averaging 30.5 points per game, ranking second among all players in the entire state, across all classes. Holding him to just 17 points was the crowning achievement for the Eagles, in a game that had them reeling for its entirety.
A handful of times, the Rebels climbed to a 15 or 16-point lead. But cashing buckets and stealing consecutive offensive rebounds from G-R players allowed the Eagles to be within just a pair of possessions again and again.
But the Rebels always seemed to find an answer, whether it was from the free-throw line - G-R was 7-for-10 at the stripe - or from a drawn out possession that led to points, followed by contested defense.
Pierce said in the coming week or so before the postseason begins, the Rebels will need to shore up some key elements on defense, including rebounding.
"Our offense, we can rely on Joe and Caden to hit those shots," Pierce said. "So I'd say defensively wise, we've got to come out every day and perform. We can't let people just drive to the hoop and get easy layups. Because if we do that, we might not go as far as we want to."
Smoldt ended up with nine assists on the night to couple his 17 points. Kiburis said he could've had even more, but his presence on the floor demands double and even sometimes triple-teaming the senior standout.
Fighting through four to six arms just to find an open player, and then getting that Rebel to capitalize on the pass can be trying and taxing on the leading point guard.
The Rebels have just two blemishes on this year's record - both losses to teams in higher classes - but are poised for another late-season run.
Pierce said with all the success he and the Rebels have had in their four years, they must be doing something right.
G-R gets its last free weekend before the postseason grind kicks off, with its first game being the winner of Waterloo Christian and Grundy Center on Thursday at 8 p.m. in Reinbeck.
Ankeny Christian Academy 51
ANKENY CHRISTIAN ACADEMY (15-6) - Grittin Laib 7 2-2 18, Drew Wilkin 0 4-4 4, Jayce Goeger 2 1-2 7, Clay Raasyas 4 1-2 11, Caleb Grizzle 5 0-0 11, Barydon Jacobs 0 0-0 0, Payton Leever 0 0-0 0. TOTALS 18 8-10 51.
GLADBROOK-REINBECK (20-2) - Walker Thede 1 0-0 2, Caden Kickbush 7 4-4 20, Joe Smoldt 7 0-0 17, Matt Roeding 4 0-1 8, Tyler Pierce 3 3-4 9, Matt Johanssen 0 0-0 0, Thomas Mussig 2 0-1 4, Jackson Kiburis 0 0-0 0, Mason Skovgard 2 0-0 5. TOTALS 26 7-10 65.
ACA 10 10 15 16 - 51
G-R 13 19 17 14 - 65
3-Point GoalsACA 8 (Laib 2, Goeger 2, Jacobs 2, Grizzle), G-R 6 (Smoldt 3, Kickbush 2, Skovgard). Total FoulsACA 14, G-R 17. Fouled OutNone.