STATE CENTER - For 28 minutes Friday night, South Tama's girls basketball team look poised to steal a road victory against a North Iowa Cedar League rival.
However, the Trojans scored only two points during the final 4:24 of the contest and let the victory slip through their fingertips. West Marshall outscored the Trojans 11-2 during those waning minutes as it went on to win 63-58.
"It was a moral victory for us," coach Marsha Keahna said. "It was a step in the right direction. We played well against a good team."
South Tama senior Shelby Bradley, right, attempts a three-pointer during the third quarter of Friday’s North Iowa Cedar League contest. Bradley scored nine points in the game. South Tama was edged out by rival West Marshall, 63-58, and fell to a 1-3 record early in the season.
Both teams battled neck-and-neck for the first three quarters of Friday's league contest. They exchanged leads eight times and were tied three more times during the first 24 minutes.
West Marshall led by four points heading into the fourth quarter, despite a three-pointer by STC junior Paige Van Dyk before the third quarter ended. Baskets from senior Jade Rohach, senior Kaleigh Sieck and Van Dyk kept STC within one point during the first two minutes of the fourth quarter.
Senior Shelby Bradley hit a three-pointer with 5:37 remaining in the game, giving STC a 54-52 lead. Van Dyk assisted Bradley on another basket more than a minute later. After Bradley's baskets, the Trojans led 56-52.
Then West Marshall rallied with a 9-0 run during the next 2:46. The host Trojans made a layup, a three-pointer, two free throws and a jumper during that stretch. Sieck ended the run as she drove into the lane and scored a layup, closing the lead to three points. West Marshall sank another jumper 25 seconds later.
West Marshall missed two free throws during the final minute, but STC couldn't cut the lead. STC turned over the ball and missed shots in the last 1:13. West Marshall won the game and gave STC its third loss on the season.
"We couldn't get into rhythm at the end," Keahna said. "We would go down and stop for a foul. Then we go to the other end and stop for another foul. We will move our feet and keep improving."
Despite the defeat, South Tama's coach was proud of how her team played Friday night.
"I thought this was our best game of the season," Keahna said. "We are starting to work as a team now and step by step we're going to get there. It's not always about winning. It's about your character and what you do on the floor. I thought we showed tremendous character tonight and I told them that.
"Their coach complimented us, saying we have a really good team and we do," she added. "He knew some of those fouls didn't go our way. As a coach, you always think it's more one-sided than it is. Our girls never gave up, they hustled and they always did what I asked them to do."
South Tama hung on to a one-point halftime lead Friday, before West Marshall started the second half with a 4-0 run in the first minute. Rohach and Bradley each scored, answering the home team's 4-0 run. Both teams exchanged baskets during the next minute. Then West Marshall scored eight unanswered points, taking a 45-38 lead with 2:15 left in the quarter.
West Marshall led early in the game as STC committed several turnovers during the opening minutes. An 8-2 West Marshall lead was extinguished after Rohach scored, giving STC an 11-10 lead. After two free throws by West Marshall, STC scored six points to end the quarter. Sophomore Erin Clayton scored four of those six points.
STC senior Megan Wanatee and Sieck each sank a three-pointer early in the second quarter, forcing West Marshall to change its defense from a 2-3 zone to man defense. STC led 25-19 when the defensive change was made. South Tama still led 32-31 at halftime.
"We did shoot well from the outside early in the game," Keahna said. "(West Marshall) had to come out and guard us then. I wish we had a little bit more height to feed into at that point, because we couldn't get our inside game going. We had chances at times and our passes were there, but we couldn't finish."
Keahna was proud of her team's defense against West Marshall sophomore Rachel Freland. She scored 13 points, including 2-of-5 shooting from three-point range.
"We pretty much shut down their good three-point shooter," Keahna said. "She only got open a couple of times and when she did, she made them. We did take that out of their game, which was a goal for us."
Rohach and Sieck led South Tama with 14 points each Friday night. Bradley and Wanatee each added nine and eight points, respectively. Rohach grabbed 12 rebounds and recorded six steals in the loss. Van Dyk, Wanatee and Rohach each had five assists in the game.
South Tama made 26-of-60 field goals attempts, while West Marshall made 24-of-57 shots. However, the home team Trojans sank 11-of-21 free throws, while South Tama didn't attempt any foul shots.
STC hosted South Hardin on Tuesday night and will travel to Conrad to play BCLUW on Friday. The game will start at 6:15 p.m.