MARION, Iowa Dondre Alexander got caught in a lie Friday night. Not really a whopper or anything, more like a little fib.
"We came out here thinking it was just another game." the Iowa City West guard said after his team's 75-63 win over Linn-Mar.
Just another game, Dondre? Really?
"I mean ...," Alexander said with a smile and slight stammer. "It was a tough opponent, a good opponent. But we came out good and matched up (well) against them."
The Class 4A fourth-ranked Trojans (4-0) ended a bunch of Linn-Mar streaks in a game marred by a first-quarter injury to Lions guard Matt Lassen. Top-ranked Linn-Mar (2-1) lost for the first time in 29 games and had 34-game Mississippi Valley Conference and 44-game regular-season strings stopped.
The last time the Lions lost at home was Dec. 18, 2007 to Iowa City High.
"A huge win," said West's Jeremy Morgan, the 6-foot-6 silky smooth junior shooter, who hit four 3-pointers in a exquisite 33-point outing. "We did a lot of preparing for this game. Now we've got to get back to the gym and keep practicing."
Lassen was knocked unconscious after smacking the back of his head on the floor underneath the West basket and having teammate Marcus Paige land on him after Paige blocked a shot. He was taken off the court on a stretcher and to the hospital by paramedics, where he was expected to spend the night, according to Linn-Mar Coach Chris Robertson.
"I'm not going to take anything away from West. They were the better team, clearly," Robertson said. "We knew coming in this was going to be a challenge for our guys. But at the same time, to lose a captain and a leader, we were a little shell-shocked."
West's play also had something to do with that. The Trojans built a 44-31 halftime lead, going ahead by as many as 18 in the second half. Linn-Mar got within six late, thanks in large part to severe West foul trouble (Alexander and starting center Myzeah Batie-Gaddy fouled out), but Morgan and company stayed poised down the stretch, making 21 of 22 free throws.
"Jeremy had struggled shooting, so I guess he saved them all up for tonight," said West Coach Steve Bergman. "I was joking in the locker room, was calling him Ali Farokhmanesh. I think that was the last time we'd beaten them, was when Ali was playing for us. That was nice, satisfying."
Bergman pointed out to reporters that Morgan, walking by, was carrying team water bottles back to the bus.
"Look at this," Bergman said. "Humble."
That was on a night where he had every reason to brag.
"I just went out there as relaxed as I could and tried to help our team to a win," Morgan said.
He also was one of several Trojans to take a crack defensively at Paige. The North Carolina signee did score 29 points but was only 9 of 23 from the field.
Matt Meier was the only other Lion to score double figures (10, off the bench). But Alexander's 21 more than offset those.
"This was our first time beating them," Alexander said. "So it felt good to me."
"I think everybody knew we weren't the No. 1 team in the state," Robertson said. "To put that on us, I don't think that was fair ... I'd vote (West) No. 1. They're very good. With all the talent they had coming back, and Bergy's as good as anybody. That's a very good team. They're going to be around at the end, I know that."
Here is the game boxscore:
IOWA CITY WEST (75): Jacob Gylten 2-7 4-4 8, Myzeah Batie-Gaddy 2-5 0-0 4, Dondre Alexander 9-15 1-1 21, Wyatt Lohaus 1-9 5-6 7, Jeremy Morgan 10-16 9-9 33, Tavian Smith 0-1 0-0 0, Richard Bryant 0-1 2-2 2, Jason Stewart 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-54 21-22 75.
LINN-MAR (63): Matt Lassen 0-1 0-0 0, Jimmy Roth 1-1 1-2 4, Derik Gogg 3-6 2-2 8, Andy Henry 2-5 1-4 5, Marcus Paige 9-23 9-9 29, Nate Dick 0-4 1-2 1, Jon Schlotterback 0-1 6-8 6, Matt Meier 2-3 5-5 10, Jacob Hutchins 0-1 0-0 0, Zach Martins 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 17-46 25-32 63.
Halftime3-point goals Iowa City West (6-18 (Gylten 0-1, Alexander 2-5, Lohaus 0-4, Morgan 4-7, Bryant 0-1), Linn-Mar 4-16 (Lassen 0-1, Roth 1-1, Henry 0-2, Paige 2-9, Meier 1-1, Martins 0-1). Rebounds Iowa City West 28 (Batie-Gaddy 11), Linn-Mar 28 (Gogg 9). Total fouls Iowa City West 23, Linn-Mar 17. Fouled out Alexander, Batie-Gaddy). Turnovers Iowa City West 8, Linn-Mar 11.