GRINNELL A low-scoring third quarter was too much for the South Tama boys basketball team to overcome in its season-opening contest Tuesday.
Facing an 11-point deficit at halftime, the Trojans only scored four points during the third quarter, while Grinnell scored 15 during that same stretch. The Trojans were unable to come back from being down 22 points in the fourth quarter as they lost 53-37 in their first game of the season.
"It's going to be sloppy at times," coach Lonnie Hammond said. "We're blending guys that maybe haven't played as much together. We also put in some new stuff. I thought both teams played pretty solid defense and the score reflects it. We gave up 53 points and on a lot of varsity nights, that's a pretty good night and you could maybe win. I'm not displeased with our defensive effort, but I thought we gave up a few too many offensive rebounds."
Despite the tough loss to Grinnell, one of STC's major rivals, Hammond saw some positives and he believes his team will fix its problems.
"In practice, we just have to be crisper," Hammond said. "Maybe reinforce taking better shots and being patient. There are times we can run and we did tonight, but there are also times where we just need to be patient and remember what we are trying to accomplish.
"There's things that we can praise and things that we can build on," Hammond said. "There were moments where it was ragged, but it's the first game. Now, we just look to get better."
Grinnell started the second half with a 7-0 run as South Tama turned the ball over and missed several shots. STC scored its first basket of the half more than four minutes into the quarter. Senior Sam Kuhter, who sat out most of the first half after picking up two quick fouls in the first quarter, scored his first basket of his team-high 10 points with a layup.
The Trojans only other bucket of the quarter came with 0:12 remaining. Senior Vinny Lasley dished the ball to senior Taylor Johnson for a layup. The basket ended a 6-0 run by Grinnell.
South Tama hung tough in the fourth quarter, despite Grinnell increasing its lead to 24 points during the middle of the period. Kuhter scored six points during the final minutes of the game as the Trojans closed the contest with a 10-2 run.
"For us, tonight, it came down to executing in our offense," Hammond said. "That means not turning the ball over, being a bit more patient and taking a better shot. We fought to the end to play defense and score. I think there are some things we have to work on, but there are some positives that come out of this."
Both teams began the game struggling on the offensive end. Three minutes into the game, only two baskets had been scored by both teams combined. A basket by Lasley tied the contest at 8-8 with 40 seconds left in the quarter. Then Grinnell hit a three-pointer during a quick 6-0 spurt in the final 40 seconds.
The Trojans maintained a similar deficit during the second quarter Tuesday night. Grinnell was the first to score, more than two minutes into the quarter, when it converted an old-fashioned three-point play. STC senior Jose Fonseca recorded a steal and layup to end a 4-minute scoring spell for the Trojans. Fonseca later added a three-point play at the end of the half to close Grinnell's lead to 11 points.
"We got into a bit of foul trouble in the first half, which kind of affected our rotation," Hammond said. "I thought Dalton Doyle stepped in for a couple minutes and helped us with that foul trouble."
South Tama will play its first home game of the season tonight. STC will host Grundy Center at 7:30 p.m.
"For us, it's less about what the other team is doing and more about continuing to improve," Hammond said. "It will be a good contest and our conference opener."