What started out as an ugly offensive contest between two North Iowa Cedar League schools, ended in a wild, high-scoring fourth quarter Friday night.
Neither South Tama or Grundy Center could sink many shots during eight minutes of Friday's NICL West Division contest. Then the tempo of the game increased and both teams found their offense.
The low-scoring beginning was vastly different than the final 10 minutes of the game. STC overcame a six-point, fourth quarter deficit en route to beat the Spartans 55-51 on its home opener.
South Tama senior Vinny Lasley attempts a jumper during the second quarter of Friday’s home opener against Grundy Center. Lasley came off the bench and sparked a 14-0 run by the Trojans, who won the game 55-51.
"We won," coach Lonnie Hammond said, sounding relieved. "If you win a basketball game, you think about what we did good and what do we need to work on in practice. It's a whole lot easier to do that than losing by one and knowing you should have won. It was good night and it was a lot of fun. I know the fans loved it, but I would have loved to see us with a little bigger lead and winning margin.
"If you win the close ones, it gives you some confidence," he added. "We're not going to win by 25 points every night, so we need to learn to win games like this. We came back from down five and found a way to win."
Senior Brad Evans scored the first basket of the game, nearly two minutes into the action. He made a layup after an assist from senior Daryl Bidwell. For the next three minutes, both teams missed several shots and committed numerous turnovers. Grundy Center scored five unanswered points at the end of the quarter, before Bidwell hit a shot for STC. The quarter ended with Grundy leading 5-4.
Both squads began scoring more in the second quarter. Grundy Center built an 11-8 lead after two minutes, but the Trojans responded with a 14-0 run. They scored those 14 points during a 3:30 stretch in the second quarter.
"It started off and you're thinking this is an ugly game," Hammond said. "It was 2-0 us with 2:45 left in the first quarter. The thing is, from my perspective, you can add offense, but you have to start playing defense from the beginning. Defensively, we were pretty solid at the start. We had some disciplinary issues we took care of and we got some kids back in after time on the bench. Then we got the tempo up where we wanted it and that allows us to do more things."
Senior Vinny Lasley sparked the spurt by the Trojans. He came off the bench and played energetic. The run started with a basket from senior Sam Kuhter and another from senior Jose Fonseca that was assisted by Lasley. Then Lasley scored a layup himself, stole a pass, assisted senior Kaleb Davenport for a layup, stole another pass and made a layup within a 14-second stretch. His 6-0 run sparked the Spartans to call timeout as the STC fans began to come alive.
Following the timeout, Lasley continued to give Grundy Center problems. Kuhter scored twice to give STC a 22-11 lead late in the quarter. Grundy scored twice before the half, but STC led 22-15.
"Vinny was huge coming off of the bench," Hammond said. "I give him a lot of credit for settling down and making easy plays. He did a great job tonight of being one of the guys, getting in the flow and making things happen. I thought that was impressive."
The third quarter remained a deadlock as South Tama never relinquished its lead, despite allowing the Spartans to tie the game. STC kept its lead between two and six points for much of the period, but Grundy Center closed it to two points at the end of the quarter.
The Spartans started the fourth quarter looking as if they were about to pull off a road victory over STC. They slowed the game and scored a pair of three-pointers en route to building a 46-40 lead with 3:56 remaining in the contest.
"We're not a half-court team," Hammond said. "At the end, it would have been nice if we would have been a bit more of a half-court team and we're going to work toward that in practice."
South Tama responded with a quick 13-0 run. Lasley, senior Clay Waterbury, Kuhter, Davenport and Evans scored during the stretch. Evans hit a three-pointer and Kuhter scored six points as the Trojans took control of the game with 1:15 left in the game.
Grundy Center cut the lead to two points in the final minutes as STC struggled to make free throws. An STC steal and layup from Kuhter locked up the game for the Trojans.
"Everybody that played tonight, contributed to the win," Hammond said. "I think that's huge. We've got some depth and some that may only be on the floor for a minute and half, but they have the opportunity to make a difference, whether it's getting a defensive stop or getting a rebound.
"Tonight, I thought we were tremendously unselfish with the ball," he said. "That's something that we improved upon from Tuesday night. We had too many turnovers, but at times, our floor discipline was a bit better. We're definitely going to shoot some free throws at practice."
South Tama will travel to West Marshall at 7:30 p.m. Friday. STC hosted East Marshall on Tuesday evening.
"In this conference, regardless of record and personnel, there are no easy games," Hammond said. "Tonight's game was a perfect example of that. We got on top and teetered on running away. You're going to have to battle and play four quarters. I think that's going to be the case with East Marshall."