BLUE RAPIDS — Out of sync and out of rhythm, the Valley Heights boys’ basketball team stumbled out of the gates against the Linn Bulldogs before pulling away in the second half for a 61-47 victory in Thursday’s Class 1A-Div. I sub-state game.
Early, Linn used a variety of screens and backdoor cuts to free itself for open shots against the half-court pressure defense of the Mustangs. There were plenty of steals for the run-and-gun Mustangs, but layup attempts clanked off the rim, while other shots went awry.
But in the second half, Bennett Bargdill provided the momentum-swinging shots. His third and fourth 3s of the game gave the Mustangs the lead, with his last one putting them up for the rest of the game.
“Gotta step up and make shots,” Valley Heights head coach Adam Plummer said. “Benny is a kid that can step up and make shots. It’s just a momentum-builder for us.”
The second half also saw the emergence of Derek Trimble, who finished with a game-high 22 points.
“I chewed him out a little bit,” Plummer said. “He’s a kid that works. He came back and was fired up. I love his intensity — love the way he competes.”
Trimble worked well within the offense in the second half, finding cutting posts from the wing position.
Forward Charles Musil added eight points in the fourth quarter as well and ended with 17 points.
It had been more than a week since the Mustangs played a game and Plummer said the team was fired up for this one. They had played Linn prior with both games ending in blowout fashion. Plummer said his team might have been too motivated before the game and that contributed to the slow start.
Linn’s Josh Meyer and Nathan Schaefer were tough from the outset and caused headaches for the Mustangs. The duo combined for 30 of Linn’s 47 points.
“They competed hard,” Plummer said of the pair. “We didn’t follow the scouting report very often on those two (tonight). I was impressed with their will and grit to try and get to the rim and score.”
Next up for the Mustangs is a championship tilt on Saturday evening against Centralia, which knocked off the second-seeded Hanover Wildcats 54-51 in the first semifinal. The two haven’t squared off since the beginning of the season, but it’s a match-up that Plummer and this team wanted.
“This is what we wanted,” Plummer said. “We didn’t care (if it was) Hanover or Centralia. We wanted to play the best so we could say that we are the best at some point. This is a great opportunity for us.”