Posted On: 02/23/18 10:57 PM
BETTENDORF — Linn-Mar used a dominant second half in which they shot 11-18 from the floor en route to an upset win over No. 4 Pleasant Valley on Friday night, 55-47.
The top seed in Substate 4, Pleasant Valley got off to a great start, jumping out to a quick 13-5 lead before the Lions closed the first quarter on a 7-0 run to close the gap. The second quarter was played to a draw, with the Spartans taking a 22-21 lead into the locker rooms.
The second half opened with Linn-Mar making their first three shots, including a pair of 3s, to open up a five-point lead. Pleasant Valley answered and drew within one heading into the final eight minutes, but the fourth quarter was controlled by the Lions and star forward Trey Hutcheson, who scored 14 of his game-high 19 points in the final eight minutes, including 9-9 from the free throw line to ice the win.
Linn-Mar (13-11) will play in the substate final on Tuesday night in Cedar Rapids against Joe Wieskamp and Muscatine. The Lions were led by Hutcheson with 19 points. Jacob Robertson added 12 and Jaren Nelson had 11 points in the win.
Pleasant Valley’s season ends at 19-3. The Spartans were led by junior guard Carter Duwa who had 17 points. Brian Dayman had 15 points and nine rebounds in his final game as a Spartan.
Linn-Mar: Trey Hutcheson 19, Jacob Robertson 12, Jaren Nelson 11, Nate Annis 8, Cole Martin 3, Greg Hall 2
Pleasant Valley: Carter Duwa 17, Brian Dayman 15, Hunter Snyder 8, Cooper Edwards 5, Caleb Carius 2
Trey Hutcheson was the best player on the floor, and he proved it late
Hutcheson was held to just three points in the first half on 1-7 shooting, but he took over in the final eight minutes, scoring 14 points down the stretch to help the Lions pull out the win. His offensive versatility is what makes him such a fantastic player, and that was on full display, as he knocked down a 3, drove baseline and kicked to an open shooter, scored around the rim, and went 9-9 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter. When Linn-Mar needed Hutcheson to make plays, he did so, and they’re moving on because of it.
Free throws matter
These teams were both in the top seven of Class 4A in free throw percentage as a team, with Linn-Mar ranking third (77.4%) and Pleasant Valley seventh (73.1%). In this game, the Lions were 11-13 from the charity stripe, while Pleasant Valley was just 8-15. All of the missed free throws from PV came when the game was still in doubt, while many of Linn-Mar’s makes came when the game was pretty much decided. PV had a chance to keep this game close midway through the fourth quarter, but missed free throws killed any momentum they had. Making the freebies matters.
The strength of the MVC
In this MVC vs. MAC contest, it was an MVC team that was 11-11 during the regular season that beat the 19-2 MAC champion. And why? Because the MVC was absolutely loaded this year, and that 11-11 mark wasn’t indicative of how good the Lions are. Six of those losses came to Dubuque Senior, Cedar Rapids Xavier (twice), Iowa City West (twice) and Mount Pleasant (non-conference). Those teams are all ranked in the top two in Classes 3A (Xavier, Mount Pleasant) and 4A, so the Lions went through an absolute meat grinder of a schedule to prepare them for this night. (That doesn’t even include losses to 16-5 Cedar Falls and 17-4 Waukee). This is as deep with talent as I’ve ever seen the league, and I’ve been following it closely for 15 years now, so it’s no real surprise that a battle-tested group like this made the plays to come out on top here.
The future of Pleasant Valley
The Spartans had a great year, and they’ve built up a really strong program over the last 20 or so years. They’ll always play fantastic defense and use a deliberate offense and physicality to wear down their opponents. Next year’s group could have a different look. They’ll lose all the effective size this year’s roster had with the graduations of Brian Dayman and Cooper Edwards, and their top returnees will be a pair of really talented scoring guards – Carter Duwa and Hunter Snyder. Duwa had a strong game here, scoring 17 points and showing the ability to score at all three levels. He’s listed at 6-0, but with his length, he probably plays closer to 6-3/6-4. Snyder had a rough night, as Linn-Mar did a great job of chasing him off the line, but he’s another gifted scorer on the perimeter. It’ll be interesting to see how a program that prides itself on it’s ability to pound teams on the glass will adjust to being a little smaller next season, but we have no doubt they’ll be really solid and a league title contender in the MAC again. They always find more big bodies to throw in on the paint, and anytime you have a pair of lengthy guards who can defend and shoot like Duwa and Snyder can, they’ll win a lot of games.
Looking ahead to Linn-Mar’s substate final
The Lions advanced to the substate final, where they’ll take on superstar Joe Wieskamp and Muscatine. Pleasant Valley beat Muscatine twice this season, by nine and 19 points, so you’d think the Lions should be a fairly solid favorite. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of defensive game plan the Lions come up with. Will they try to limit Wieskamp, or will they let him “get his” and take away the rest of the Muskies? As we’ve mentioned before, the Lions aren’t going to be intimidated by anyone, and while Muscatine will definitely have the best player on their side, you could probably argue that the Lions will have the second, third, fourth and fifth best players with Hutcheson, Jacob Robertson, Jaren Nelson and Nolan Ruff. It’s the balance that Linn-Mar provides, and the shooting that they can put on the floor at nearly every spot, that will win out on Tuesday night, as the Lions punch their State ticket for the first time since 2012.