Rebels halted by Defenders 45-36 in State Quarterfinals

G-R junior Drew Eilers pulled down 15 boards and scored seven points in Monday's State quarterfinals as the Rebels fell to Marquette Catholic 45-36 to end their season.
CJ Eilers
Regional Sports Editor
DES MOINES - Isaac Clark was unsure of what his senior year of basketball would hold. 
Gladbrook-Reinbeck had broken through to the State tournament in 2023 after coming up a game short the previous two seasons. The Rebels lost their main weapon in William Kiburis to graduation, but success in football pushed the returning players to maintain their success and ultimately return to Wells Fargo Arena in 2024. 
“I remember it was rough at first, especially in the summer,” Clark said. “We hadn’t played these lineups much together. But we had chemistry in other sports that we could use in basketball. We worked together and got back down to State again.”
G-R’s return saw them hold back a high-scoring Marquette Catholic in the Class 1A quarterfinals, but cold shooting kept the Rebels behind in the second half of their 45-36 loss to end their season. 
“It was more exciting to be here this season because not many people thought we would get here,” junior Drew Eilers said. “Four of the five starters all played football together, and even the guys off the bench had that chemistry from football. We were all excited to be back here.”
Neither squad shot the ball well in the opening half, but the Rebels were able to generate extra looks with their size advantage. G-R pulled down seven offensive boards to Marquette’s one in the first 16 minutes. Eilers alone had 10 of the 17 rebounds in the half, having already broken the Rebels’ single season rebound record. 
“Rebounding was key for us,” coach Scott Kiburis said. “That’s what Drew has been doing for us all season. He kept us in the game by getting those rebounds early on.”
The Rebels opened the third quarter on an 8-3 run with a balanced attack for their largest lead of the afternoon, 30-23, five minutes in. G-R found themselves turning the ball over in the halfcourt or under the basket as suddenly the Defenders matched their physicality in the second half, closing the rebounding gap as the Rebels grew cold from the field once again. 
“We were turning the ball over and then fouling,” Kiburis said. “We ran some good plays, just didn’t get the shots to fall. This was a defensive game. Kids are nervous and it's hard to score.”
Foul trouble forced leading scorer Michael Boyd to sit the end of the third quarter and move the Rebels to a zone to keep their fouls down on the defensive end. G-R went three of 10 from deep in the first half and then 0-7 in the second. 
“I feel like weren’t patient at times,” Eilers said. “But I think Isaac was doing a great job out there, being our quarterback. He stayed composed and didn’t do many bad things.  I was very impressed with that.”
The Defenders separated themselves from the free throw line, shooting 20 of 27. They hit seven of their last 10 foul shots to build up their lead as the Rebels struggled from the field in the final quarter, going three of 11. 
“We were not getting clean threes from the wings or off the top,” Kiburis said. “[Marquette] did a good job on Michael [Boyd]. We hit a couple more shots, then we dictate the end of the game instead of having it dictated to us.” 
Clark led the Rebels with 11 points, five rebounds and two steals. Boyd finished with eight points and seven rebounds. Eilers totaled 15 boards and seven points. 
“You can’t beat playing here with your best friends,” Clark said. “I think we were bigger than [Marquette]. We’ve been a great rebounding team all season. We struggled with shots tonight, but I’m proud of what we did on the defensive end.
G-R concluded their season 21-6 in their second consecutive trip to State. Clark will graduate as starting point guard. Seniors Austin Gehring and Austin Vaverka provided valuable minutes off the bench this season for a Rebels team that skipped the rebuild and instead retooled themselves into another State qualifying squad. 
“Austin Gehring is a fantastic teammate and did a great job with our scout team these last few weeks to get us ready,” Kiburis said. “Austin Vaverka is a winner who does the little things on defense. I’ve known Isaac since he was two and he's just a competitor in every aspect. He’s stepped up his game this season. These three seniors taught our younger kids a lot and led us back to Des Moines.”
The cupboards are hardly bare for the Rebels next season. Boyd returns at the lead scorer (14.2 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 3.0 apg) and Eilers averaged a double-double (12.5 ppg, 10.1 rpg) this season. Junior Austen Mathern and sophomore Hudson Clark started all 26 games. 
“Hopefully some of the guys who didn't play as much this year will step it up, because we're gonna need that next year without Isaac as our point guard,” Eilers said. “We need to shoot better if we want to be back here again for a third time next season.”  


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