The Grand View Christian boys’ basketball team first qualified for the state tournament last season. But the Thunder were bounced in the first round, sparking a year-long mission to not just return to Wells Fargo Arena, but to walk out a winner.
On Friday night, the Des Moines school accomplished that mission.
Grand View Christian beat Gladbrook-Reinbeck 61-50 to claim the Class 1A state championship. The title is the Thunder’s first in its young history, the perfect ending to a season in which they went 27-1.
“Our guys played real hard, and they stuck with the gameplan,” Grand View Christian coach Dave Stubbs said. “Our guys just weren’t content with getting here. They wanted to win it.”
The Thunder won the title with a strong defense to match a high-powered offense. They entered the week with the state’s biggest margin of victory and its most prolific attack (85.6 points per game) along with its stingiest defense, allowing just 38.9 per contest.
Both units were on full display Friday. In all, the Thunder shot 22-for-44 for the game, including a 17-for-31 showing inside the 3-point arc. They forced the Rebels (26-6) into nine turnovers, which turned into 15 points, many of which came during a big first-quarter run.
Grand View Christian jumped out to a 19-2 lead after the first eight minutes. That provided the essential difference in the game — Gladbrook-Reinbeck settled and slowly chipped away at the lead, but the Rebels only outscored the Thunder by six the rest of the way.
“We were just trying to be aggressive,” said junior Grant DeMeulenaere. “We attacked, and the shots came and they felt good.”
Three Grand View players finished in double figures, led by DeMeulenaere’s 17 points. He added five boards and four assists and was named to the Class 1A all-tournament team. Mach Nyaw scored 11 and Bryce Crabb added 10 more, though he arguably turned in a better defensive effort.
Crabb was assigned to defend Joe Smoldt, the Rebels’ elite shooter who scored 30 points a game during the regular season. For almost three full quarters, Smoldt was held without a field goal, but he drained two triples in the final minute of the third quarter. He exploded in the fourth to score 25.
“They’re probably the best defense we’ve seen,” Gladbrook-Reinbeck coach Scott Kiburis said. “… They just got two or three guys on Joe right off the start. We knew they were going to come at him. They just did it differently than a couple other teams have.”
By bottling up Smoldt for most of the game, the Thunder rolled to their first state title without much fuss. Even after the horn sounded, DeMeulenaere said the feeling hadn’t sunk in yet, and that it probably wouldn’t for a while.
Grand View Christian (61) — Stephen Glenn 8, DeMeulenaere 17, Montes 9, Crabb 10, N Long 2, Sam Glenn 2, Nyaw 11, Saliu 2. Also played — A Long, Fry, Gatto, Wilson, Bruce. Totals: 22-44, 12-16.
Gladbrook-Reinbeck (50) — W Thede 3, Kickbush 4, Smoldt 25, Roeding 8, Pierce 7, Skovgard 3. Also played—Haack, Tscherter, Johnanssen, E Thede, Mussig, Kiburis, Peterson. Totals: 13-41, 19-28.
Grand View Christian…19 13 14 15 — 61
Gladbrook-Reinbeck…2 15 16 17 — 50
3-pointers — GV 5 (Stephen Glenn 2, Crabb 2, DeMeulenaere 1), GR 5 (Smoldt 4, Skovgard 1). Fouls — GV 21, GR 16. Technical Fouls — None. Fouled Out — GV 1 (Montes)
Cody Goodwin covers high school sports, college basketball recruiting and Drake athletics for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.
Class 1A All-Tournament Team
Jake Hilmer, North Linn
Stephen Glenn, Grand View Christian
Grant DeMeulenaere, Grand View Christian
Nicholas Ruden, Remsen St. Mary’s
Joe Smoldt, Gladbrook-Reinbeck (Captain)