The favorite: Osage has been absolutely outstanding on the defensive end of the floor this season, allowing just 35.2 points a game, which is tops in 2A. The Green Devils are led by Jonah Bluhm (20.4), a scoring guard who is shooting 43.6% from behind the arc. Five other players average between 4.1 and 9.1 points a game, so it’s generally a new player stepping into the secondary scoring role on a nightly basis alongside Bluhm. This team will go as far as their defense can take them.
The biggest threat: Forest City swept likely semifinal opponent Garner-Hayfield-Ventura this year, but those two wins came by a combined six points. Still, with the first round bye, we’ll give the Indians the edge here. Guard Noah Miller (14.7) has been great with the ball in his hands this year, dishing out 107 assists against just 37 turnovers, while also leading the team in scoring. Brandon Leber (10.6) and Carter Bruckhoff (8.2) give them a bit of perimeter shooting, while Riley Helgeson (8.7) has been solid in the paint.
The dark horse: In Landon Dalbeck (16.7), Garner-Hayfield-Ventura has arguably the second best player in the district, which makes them dangerous. The Cardinal senior guard has knocked down 56 3s this season at a 44.8% clip and leads the team with 43 steals. This team will need to protect the ball better (290 turnovers, 258 assists) if they want to make a serious run in this district.
Players to watch
2020 Jonah Bluhm, Osage
2020 Landon Dalbeck, Garner-Hayfield-Ventura
2021 Kevin Meyers, Garner-Hayfield-Ventura
2021 Noah Miller, Forest City
2022 Connor State, Clarion-Goldfield-Dows
2021 Chase Mason, Eagle Grove
The favorite: North Linn completed another undefeated regular season and are riding a 47-game winning streak. In fact, in the last three season, the Lynx are 75-1 in the last three seasons, with the lone loss coming to Grand View Christian in the 1A championship game in the 2017-18 season. The Lynx have been dominant this season, rolling through the Tri-Rivers Conference, beating teams by an average of 45 points a game, while posting the highest scoring attack in 2A, averaging 86.4 points per game. They’re led by senior forward Austin Miller (22.4), a highly efficient forward who is shooting 70.5% from the floor and is a beast on the glass. Austin Hilmer (17.9) is the straw that stirs the drink on both ends of the floor, in the mold of older brother Jake. He’s a great passer (191 assists, 59 turnovers) who can score from anywhere, has fantastic quickness and is a menace on the defensive end as well. The Lynx constantly apply pressure, so teams will have to have excellent guard play if they want to upset this group.
The biggest threat: Both Denver and Dike-New Hartford have solid guard play and could push the Lynx if they can take care of the ball. Denver swept the season series against the Wolverines, so the Cyclones will be our pick to come out of the bottom half of the bracket. They’re led by an excellent trio of juniors in Kyler Matthias (15.4), Bryce Phelps (14.8) and Isaac Besh (13.5). All three are quality shooters, and they’ve combined to dish out 207 assists against 108 turnovers. They’ll need that type of ball security if they’re going to play with the Lynx for 32 minutes.
The dark horse: Dike-New Hartford is the second-seeded team in this district, but since the Wolverines were swept by Denver, they’re the “dark horse” in this group. They’re led by 5-10 junior guard Dane Fuller (18.0), a quick guard who thrives on getting into the paint but can also stretch the floor a bit. Six other players average between 4.5 and 9.2 points, and this is a team that has dished out 341 assists against 228 turnovers. As we’ve mentioned, ball security will be paramount in this district.
Players to watch
2020 Austin Miller, North Linn
2022 Austin Hilmer, North Linn
2021 Dane Fuller, Dike-New Hartford
2021 Isaac Besh, Denver
2021 Bryce Phelps, Denver
2021 Kyler Matthias, Denver
2020 James Stimson, Sumner-Fredericksburg
2020 Cooper Fuelling, Jesup
2022 Drake Wemark, New Hampton
SUBSTATE FINAL PREDICTION
Osage vs. North Linn
Osage has been outstanding on the defensive end of the floor this year, but North Linn will force the tempo here with their pressing style, and the Green Devils don’t have the firepower to keep up with that relentless pressure. This one is competitive for a half or so, but the speedy Lynx wear down Osage and make a return to Des Moines to try to defend their title.