Gladbrook-Reinbeck boys basketball fulfills state dream

Jake Ryder
The Grundy Register

REINBECK – William Kiburis admits he was a little spoiled growing up.

As one of the sons for Gladbrook-Reinbeck boys basketball head coach Scott Kiburis, he was able to see the great teams of G-R past up-close-and-personal.

Camden and Caden Kickbush. Zach Pierce. Joe Smoldt. And the countless others that contributed to a Rebel team that made three consecutive state tournament appearances from 2015-2017, including a state title in 2015.

But on Monday, Will gets the chance to take the court at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines with his childhood friends and end his high school career at the state tournament.

“It’s special to be with the guys I grew up with and be able to play with them in an experience that I’ll probably remember for a lifetime,” Will said.

Gladbrook-Reinbeck returns to state for the first time since the end of that three-year streak in 2017, earning the third seed and taking on Remsen St. Mary’s at 3:45 p.m. on Monday afternoon.

For Will and fellow senior starters Caleb Egesdal and Luke Riffey, as well as sub Luke Sienknecht, it’s a culmination of a three-year journey where the Rebels finally got over the substate final hump after losing fourth-quarter leads in each of their last two games to go to state.

“Coming up short those last two years motivated us a lot,” Riffey said. “And especially as seniors, it motivated us to work hard in practice and in the weight rooms.”

Kiburis leads the way at 26.5 points per game and adds 8.1 assists, 2.8 steals and eight rebounds per contest. Egesdal averages 13.7 points per game and leads the team shooting the three at a 41-percent success rate. Riffey also shoots near 40 percent from three and averages 11.2 points per game.

“The ball is in their hands most of the time,” Scott Kiburis said. “So whoever has it, they’re going to be pretty competent. And they don’t always rely on William but they know that there are situations where he will take it upon himself to handle it, and they’ll get it to them. They’ve played a lot of basketball, a lot of sports together, and they’re excited to be in a game like this.”

For the Hawks, Jaxon Bunkers averages 15.5 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game. Collin Homan, a 6-foot-5 sophomore, is scoring 14.6 points with 7.8 rebounds per game and Cael Ortmann puts up 10.9 points per game.

Remsen St. Mary’s boasts a top-10 scoring defense, allowing just 42.1 points per game; Gladbrook-Reinbeck’s offense rates fifth in 1A at 76.4 points per game.

“They like to get the ball inside to take quality shots every time and defensively, they play solid man defense,” Scott said. “We’ve just got to take a look at our best options for getting scores. They’re big but they’re athletic and can switch on different guys to not have much of a mismatch.”

Scott Kiburis wants to see the Rebels continue working on their own defensive effort.

“We’re focusing on a couple things that they present so hopefully we can maybe take the shot clock down and get them to shoot a shot they don’t want, create a turnover,” Scott said. “That’s something we want to do if we can play a little more of a full-court game defensively than we played this last Saturday. … We also have to make sure that we take high-quality shots.”

After coming up short in years’ past, the Rebels are rolling on to state.

“When I first went there in 2015 to watch the team, I always thought ‘I want to make it there when I’m in high school, too,’” Egesdal said. “We have four seniors that have been here all four years, and most of us have been playing together for a long time. Having that camaraderie together and being able to finally get there as a team, that’s awesome.”

Forged by experiences of past incredible seasons not ending the way they wanted, though, the Rebels aren’t going to Des Moines just happy to be there.

“I definitely think we’re a team that people have to look out for,” Will Kiburis said. “We have a really good shot at doing something down there.”

As someone with past experience as a coach at state, Scott hopes the team can appreciate the moment for what it is, though, no matter how long the trip lasts this week.

“I have to recognize that sometimes, that they haven’t done it, and I’m old and have had opportunities to do it,” Scott said. “I’ve just told them to thank people that are saying really nice things to you, but to also not have a big head and make sure you’re doing what you’re supposed to do. Going to class, participating in class, working hard and practicing and doing all the things that got you here and keep that level as best you can.”



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