Rylan Murry ended his career Saturday as arguably the greatest player in the history of the West Branch boys basketball program.
Some day he will come to appreciate that distinction, but individual accolades were perhaps the furthest thing from Murry’s mind as he tried to come to terms with a third consecutive loss to North Cedar in the playoffs.
“I’m sure in a few weeks when I look back I’ll realize it was great what we did here, but right now, it just kind of sucks,” Murry said after the 52-43 loss to North Cedar in a Class 2A substate final at West High.
This marks the third straight season North Cedar has eliminated West Branch from the playoffs, but the first time with a trip to the state tournament on the line.
North Cedar improved to 21-3 overall and now advances to the state tournament in Des Moines for the third consecutive season and for the fourth time since 2000. West Branch, which was trying to make the state tournament for the first time in school history, ended the season with an 18-6 record.
The 6-foot-8 Murry was held to just 14 points while facing a suffocating box-and-one defense. North Cedar junior Jacob Hay blanketed Murry the entire game despite being almost eight inches shorter.
“We had to stop Murry,” Hay said. “I thought we did a heck of a job.”
Murry made his first shot of the game, a 3-pointer, midway through the first quarter. However, he was held without a basket for the rest of the first half and made just three shots in the second half.
“It was really frustrating,” said Murry, who has signed a letter of intent to play basketball at Nebraska-Omaha next season. “They did a heck of a job playing the defense they wanted to play. We just couldn’t do what we wanted to do on offense.”
North Cedar held the Bears to just three baskets in the second quarter and turned an 11-8 first-quarter deficit into a 21-19 halftime lead. The Knights expanded the lead to 11 points late in the second half.
Senior Marshall Shedeck made a 3-pointer from the baseline with about 2 seconds left in the second quarter to give North Cedar the lead at the break.
North Cedar only made 8-of-22 field-goal attempts in the first two quarters, but three of its baskets were 3-pointers. West Branch made 7-of-16 field-goal attempts in the first two quarters and 16-of-38 shots overall.
Senior center Cody Brandt made all three of his field-goal attempts in the first half but then was held scoreless in the second half.
West Branch also struggled from the free-throw line, making just 6-of-16 free attempts. North Cedar made 12-of-17 free throws, including 6-of-8 in the final minute of the game.
“I really thought a big difference was the free throws,” West Branch coach Stephen Bender said. “We shot it horrendously from the line. If we make our free throws, it’s a real close game and we’re not having to foul there at the end.
“And North Cedar is a great free-throw shooting team. Free throws in games like this is what’s going to win it for you.”
Shedeck led a balanced North Cedar offense with 13 points. Sophomore center Jayden Johnson scored 12 points, while Hay and reserve Andrew Fields finished with eight apiece.
WEST BRANCH (43) – Mason Hays 1 0-0 3, Lucas Lamont 3 0-0 8, Rylan Murry 4 5-9 14, Cole Cook 3 1-3 7, Cody Brandt 3 0-2 6, , Branden Shortt 0 0-0 0, Mike Gould 0 0-2 0, Brandon Wasion 1 0-0 3, Konnor Myrvik 0 0-0, Jon Shipley 1 0-0 2, Collin Cocharn 0 0-0 0. Totals 16 6-16 43.
NORTH LINN (52) – Josh Kintzel 1 3-4 6, Marshall Shedeck 3 6-8 13, Jacob Hay 3 1-2 8, Jayden Johnson 5 2-2 12, Seth Hamilton 1 0-0 2, Grant Pruess 1 0-0 3, Andre Fields 4 0-0 8. Totals 18 12-17 52.
3-point goals – West Branch ( Lamont 2, Murry, Wasion), North Linn Hay, Kintzel, Shedeck, Pruess. Fouls -North Cedar 14, West Branch 15. Fouled out – Cook, Gould.