LETTS, Iowa — After his team won just four games a season ago, Louisa-Muscatine boys’ basketball coach Brennan Gerst wanted to see his Falcons open the 2017-18 campaign with some fire.
Gerst got it from Zack Bieri. The senior guard scored on an inbound play just before the first-half buzzer, and then carried that momentum into the third quarter, where he hit three straight shots to help the Falcons open up a 17-point lead over visiting Mediapolis. From there, Louisa-Muscatine rolled to a 53-39 victory.
“In the locker room, coach was saying to play with passion,” said Bieri, who scored 16 points to lead the Falcons. “So we came out here and played our hearts out and got the W.”
Gerst and the Falcons (1-0, 1-0 Southeast Iowa Super Conference North Division) also got passion from Brady Walker. The 6-foot-4 big man notched a double-double to help Louisa-Muscatine out-rebound the Bulldogs 39-25.
“I love being a post because you get to be aggressive,” said Walker, who finished with 15 points and 16 rebounds. “You’ve just got to work hard. If I got an offensive board, I either took it up and got fouled or passed it right back out. I think that really helped.”
Mediapolis (0-1, 0-1 SEISC North) missed the size and scoring punch of Will Schroeder, who did not play on Tuesday after suffering an ankle injury in preseason practice. The 6-foot-3 Schroeder led the Bulldogs in scoring last season and was a second team all-conference selection.
“It just hurts us when you have to plug away with 5-9 and 5-10 instead of 6-3 and 6-4,” Mediapolis head coach Greg Worrall said.
Louisa-Muscatine led just 12-11 after one quarter of play, but Mediapolis went 1-for-10 from the field in the second quarter and was limited to just three points in the period. Bieri took an inbound pass from under the Falcons’ hoop and laid it in just before the first half ended to give his team a 31-14 lead at the break. Bieri pumped his fist and he ran into the home locker room.
“We had that play drawn up,” Bieri said, “so it was fun to get it to work.”
Bieri got a steal and a layup to open the second-half scoring and then added back-to-back 3-pointers that pushed the Falcon lead to 17. Louisa-Muscatine led by as many as 20 points in the second half.
“He’s a really good shooter,” Walker said of Bieri. “If he passes it down and his guy comes down, I can just kick it out and I know it’s going in.”
Mediapolis was able to trim the Falcons’ lead to 11 points with just over two minutes remaining, but the Bulldogs didn’t shoot the ball with enough consistency to rally all the way back. The visitors shot just 25 percent (15-for-59) from the field and 6-for-31 from 3-point range in the contest. Ben Wolgemuth scored 16 points to lead Mediapolis.
“We’re just learning the ropes,” Worrall said. “They’re just learning now what a varsity basketball game is. There were three kids who came out and played in the JV game just to get their feet wet. It’s a whole other level.”
While he said his team’s energy may have waned a bit in the closing minutes of the game, Gerst was pleased with his team’s effort in the season-opening victory.
“They just need to make sure they’re staying on track with what we’re trying to do, playing with passion, and hopefully that results in a few more wins this year,” he said.