Lassen Continues Remarkable Return as Linn-Mar Blasts Jefferson, 68-42

By Jeff Johnson, Reporter

Cedar Rapids Jefferson's Taylor Olson, (left), tries to slip past Linn-Mar's Marcus Paige, in the first half of their game at Linn-Mar, in Marion, Iowa, on, Tuesday, February 14, 2012. (Nikole Hanna/SourceMedia Group News)

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By James Steward

MARION, Iowa – Matt Lassen is back – in the game and in his game. It couldn’t come at a better time for the Linn-Mar Lions.

“I’ve felt great,” the junior swingman said after his team beat Cedar Rapids Jefferson, 68-42, Tuesday night. “But tonight, I think I got more open looks, more touches. Honestly, my shot felt the same as it has. My teammates were just setting me up really well. It worked out.”

Marcus Paige did what he always does, making a 30-point game seem almost effortless as Linn-Mar (17-4 overall) clinched at least a tie for the MVC Mississippi Division championship. The Lions can win it outright by beating Dubuque Wahlert in their regular-season finale Thursday night.

But this was just as much Lassen’s night.

The 6-foot-4 University of Albany commit suffered a head injury in a December game against Iowa City West, a severe concussion after hitting the back of his head on the floor and having Paige unintentionally fall on him after an attempted blocked shot. Lassen spent time in the intensive care unit at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics due to swelling and bleeding of the brain.

You wondered if he ever would play again, let alone this season, but he returned last week and Tuesday night was money, splashing five 3-pointers for 15 points off the bench.

If he continues to play this way, Linn-Mar will be an extremely tough out in the postseason, which begins next week. The Lions are seeking their unprecedented ninth straight appearance in the state tournament.

“The first couple of weeks (after his injury), it didn’t really hit me what had happened,” Lassen said. “Then I watched the video of it, and I realized that it was pretty bad. I just thought ‘Wow’ … I obviously don’t remember it.”

He was asked if he thinks about getting hurt again while he is playing.

“Not at all,” he said. “I’m not going to hold back at all. You’re not going to see me shying away from contact or anything like that. I’m happy to be back, and I’m going to play 100 percent all the time.”

Linn-Mar hit 8 of 11 field goals to build a 25-8 lead after a quarter. It connected on 8 of 14 treys in the first half, with Paige and Lassen the primary forces.

“We’ve been off to so many slow starts this season,” Linn-Mar Coach Chris Robertson said. “It was important for us to get off to a good start tonight.”

Paige was brilliant on Senior Night, hitting 10 of his 13 shots from the field and all five free throws. That included five 3-pointers.

He led Class 4A in scoring coming into the game at 26.5 points.

“It was pretty special tonight,” the North Carolina signee said. ”These last four years have really flown. When you think about it, it feels like just yesterday I was a freshman with Zach Bohannon and all those guys. It’s been a good career. We still have one more game here, our first playoff game. But to know this is the last regular-season game I’ll ever play here. It was kind of emotional.”

Jefferson (12-8) again struggled offensively, playing without starting forward Alec Saunders, who is nursing a high ankle sprain. Taylor Olson had a team-high 21 points behind his usual array of spinning power moves to the hoop, but the J-Hawks shot just 33 percent from the field.
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