Monday's Class 1A boys' state basketball quarterfinal game between No. 4 Gladbrook-Reinbeck and No. 5 Lynnville-Sully will be a rematch of sorts, except on a grander stage.
The Rebels (24-2) shot down the Hawks (24-1) in last year's 1A substate match, a 49-41 result at the McLeod Center in Cedar Falls. But a lot has changed in a year-plus for both teams, setting up an interesting match between familiar foes.
"They're local in the sense that we play Montezuma the past three years and they play [Montezuma in conference] and we've seen them in tournaments," said G-R head coach Scott Kiburis. "You know their scoring is distributed amongst the whole group. It's going to take more than stopping one or two players. It'll be a tough game, but hopefully we're going to get a chance there at the end to win the game."
The similarities between the two teams are almost eerie, like those weird coincidences between the lives of Presidents Lincoln and Kennedy.
Last year, when the two teams met, the Rebels had two losses (Anamosa and Janesville). This year, the Rebels enter with a pair of losses, taken earlier in the season to 2A Jesup and 2A No. 9 South Hamilton.
G-R also posted a seven-point win against Montezuma, a South Iowa Cedar League opponent of Lynnville-Sully, in the 2015-16 campaign. This year, the Rebels routed Montezuma 68-49.
The Hawks' lone loss before meeting G-R in the substate final last year was a seven-point loss in the fifth game of the season. This year? An eight-point loss to Montezuma in the fifth game of the year.
But despite all the glaring coincidences and similarities between the two teams, senior Joe Smoldt and the Rebels are ready to change the narrative, but keep the same ending.
"At this point, it doesn't matter who you play down at state," Smoldt said. "They're all going to be good teams. Down to the final eight, everybody's going to be good. If you don't bring you're A-game, you're going to get beat. And I think we know that. These first couple days of practice, not knowing who we're going to play, we were focused on just getting ourselves better, focused and ready. We knew these last couple days of practice were just going to be for scouting and getting ready for who we knew we were going to play."
Iowa High School Athletic Association
The Hawks are led by four players who all average double figures per game. With senior Jesse Van Wyk leading the way with 12.5 ppg, as well as assists (97), steals (54) and blocks (27), the Rebels will have to steer clear of the Hawks' big man inside.
Grinnell transfer Brevin Hansen comes in averaging 11.2 ppg, while leading the Hawks with a 36.2 3-point percentage. L-S takes care of the ball especially well, with a 1.73 assists-to-turnover ratio (14th-best in Class 1A).
Tanner Foster comes in averaging 11.5 ppg and Rylan James hits 10.7 usually. As a team, the Hawks are 12th in Class 1A with 66.3 ppg.
The Rebels will tout arguably the best senior guard in the state in Smoldt. He averages a state-best 30.5 ppg, while hitting 50 percent from the 3-point arc. The all-star leads the Rebels in assists (130) and steals (74), with senior counterpart Matt Roeding leading with 21 blocks and 153 rebounds this year.
"Last year, we had three seniors who played a lot, and they're gone," Roeding said. "We'll have new guys stepping in this year. Caden Kickbush has a big role this year. He's got a much bigger role this year, and he's been playing phenomenally. We've got a lot of height advantage this year, [too]. Like I said, they lost their big kid, but we'll have a big height advantage this year with four or five people over 6[-foot]-4."
Both teams have dominated nearly all their competition this year. The Rebels have three overtime games, which they're 3-0 in, and defeat opponents by a 19.4 point differential, while scoring 70.4 points per game.
On the other end, L-S averages 66.3 points per game while beating up on foes by 27.1 points per game.
In his final trip to Wells Fargo Arena, senior Deagan Haack said the trip is extra special, just to be going, and ending the four-year run in Des Moines.
"Our senior class is just so close, it just means a lot [getting back to state]," Haack said. "Even me and Jed [Peterson] don't get to play that much, but it's just fun. We work hard every day and we know we're pushing them to get better. If that's what needs to be done to get the job done, that's what we've got to do."
The Rebels tip-off against the Hawks at 10:30 a.m. Monday. The winner will get the champion of No. 1 North Linn and unranked Maple Valley-Anthon-Oto on Thursday at 10:30 a.m.