'Not afraid of the moment:' Bulldogs battle way to state tournament

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A 57-48 win over Lake Mills in the Class 2A Substate Final is sending the MFL MarMac boys basketball team to the state tournament. Pictured (left to right) are coaches Mike Driscoll and Mychal Moon, managers Cayden Pester and Emme Schroeder, players Carter Lightfoot, Ethan Goltz, Kade McElwaine, Landyn Miene, Wyatt Powell, Jaron Wille and Zach Driscoll, manager Carsten Pester, players Carver Blietz-Bentien, Brock Hackett, Bryce Diehl, Parker Kuehl and Hunter Meyer, manager Aedan Whitney and coaches Eric Dettbarn and Cory Donlon. (Photos by Audrey Posten)

Junior Wyatt Powell (left), senior Hunter Meyer (right) and their teammates hoist MFL MarMac’s state qualifier banner after the substate final win over Lake Mills on Feb. 25.

Zach Driscoll gets a celebratory lift from teammate Carver Blietz-Bentien following Saturday's victory.

Junior Carver Blietz-Bentien hugs head coach Eric Dettbarn after the Bulldogs defeated Lake Mills to advance to state.

Sophomore Zach Driscoll scored a team-high 23 points against Lake Mills, with six coming in the final minute on a fadeaway jumper and four free throws.

Parker Kuehl contributed 9 points in MFL MarMac's substate final win.

Bulldog Wyatt Powell searches for an open lane in the second half of the Feb. 25 substate final in Charles City.

Landyn Miene edges toward the basket in the 57-48 Bulldog win over Lake Mills.

Carver Blietz-Bentien knocked down 11 points versus Lake Mills.

Brock Hackett goes airborne in the Feb. 25 substate final victory.

By Audrey Posten, Times-Register


The MFL MarMac boys basketball team is headed to state. A 57-48 win over Lake Mills in the Feb. 25 Class 2A Substate Final clinched it for the Bulldogs, who will make their first appearance in Des Moines since 2013.


“This is where we wanted to be the whole year. This is what we planned,” said senior Hunter Meyer. “It’s a great feeling, all the hard work paying off.”


“I’m really happy for the kids,” added head coach Eric Dettbarn. “We talked about that the first day of practice. I said, ‘See those banners up there? We need to put a banner up there and you guys are capable of doing it.’”


MFL MarMac, the number three seed in its substate bracket, came into the postseason with just one loss to Decorah. The team dispatched second-seeded Beckman Catholic 54-51 in the district final on Feb. 21, before taking down the undefeated top seed Lake Mills.


Junior Carver Blietz-Bentien (17 points) and sophomores Parker Kuehl (16) and Zach Driscoll (15) all scored in double digits in the win over the Blazers, which saw the Bulldogs mount a six-point halftime lead. A third quarter rally put Beckman up 39-38, but the MFL MarMac defense held strong while the offense did just enough to out-score the Blazers 16-12 in the final period and secure the win.


Saturday’s match-up against Lake Mills was another defensive battle. The teams traded points through the first half, with MFL MarMac taking a 30-27 lead at the break. A 7-0 run to start the second half gave Lake Mills a 34-32 advantage, but the Bulldogs closed the period on an 8-0 run of their own, for a 45-39 lead heading into the fourth. Although Lake Mills came within two points, the MFL MarMac defense got the stops it needed.


Driscoll, who scored a team-high 23 points, had six of those in the final minute on a fadeaway jumper and four free throws. He did it all while battling a Charlie horse.


The key, he said: “Grit. Heart. All these guys wanted to win.”


After Driscoll, Blietz-Bentien contributed 11 points, Kuehl 9 and junior Wyatt Powell 7. The team shot 40.7 percent overall and hit only 2 of 16 three pointers, but made up for it defensively, including 13 steals and a block.


MFL MarMac also out-rebounded Lake Mills 31-26, and allowed Lake Mills just three offensive rebounds.


“We knew they were big and could rebound. We had to want the rebounds more. We did tonight,” Driscoll said.


Defense is what’s defined the team all season, according to Dettbarn.


“Everything is built on our defense and I thought we played really well defensively again tonight,” he said. “We wanted to keep pressure on them the entire ballgame and try to wear them down. We did that toward the end of the game.” 


Outside minutes from sophomores Brock Hackett and Landyn Miene and junior Kade McElwaine, the five Bulldog starters—Driscoll, Kuehl, Blietz-Bentien, Powell and Meyer—played the majority of the game.


“Those guys can play all 32 minutes and are still going after it the last minute of the game just like they do the first minute of the game,” Dettbarn continued. “We wore them down a bit, which forced them to miss some shots on this end. Then, we did enough on the offensive end to get the victory.”


Driscoll credited the Bulldogs’ defensive success to communication.


“That’s the biggest part to defense: everybody communicating. That’s what we do really well. We communicate and switch everything. That’s what wins games,” he explained.


MFL MarMac prepared for the match-up with undefeated Lake Mills like any other. The team’s underdog status was motivation, said Driscoll.


“We liked this draw. We knew we were going to be the underdog because our conference isn’t very good, but we knew we had the players and could do it. We can play with anybody,” he shared.


The Bulldogs have done it all with just one senior, in Meyer. But Dettbarn stressed that doesn’t correspond to lack of experience. Juniors Blietz-Bentien and Powell have played three years of varsity basketball, and this is the second for sophomores Driscoll and Kuehl.


“We may be young age-wise, but basketball-wise, we’re really not that young. They have a lot of experience underneath their belts, and not only at the high school level. They played all the way up, and it really shows through,” Dettbarn said. “They are not afraid of the moment. They are excited for the moment and relish the opportunity to play in games like this.”


MFL MarMac is the five seed in the Class 2A state tournament, and will face fourth-seeded Pella Christian in the first round game on Monday, March 6. The game will start at 7:15 p.m. at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines. 


“We’re going to go down there and give it our best shot and see what happens,” said Dettbarn.

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