A game appeared to possibly come down to the final minute was actually decided during the opening minutes of the third quarter Friday night.
In a matter of less than six minutes, AGWSR's boys basketball team separated itself from the South Tama squad. The Cougars turned a one-point halftime lead into a 15-point advantage.
South Tama was unable to recover from the double-digit difference in the second half of its first game back after the holiday break. STC fell to 4-5 after losing 63-43 to the Cougars.
"It literally was a tale of two halves," STC coach Lonnie Hammond said. "We probably missed six or eight easy shots in the first, so we could have been ahead. Going in at halftime, we're down one and feeling great about our defense. I think the difference in the third quarter was the first three minutes. We talk about those minutes being key about getting the momentum and imposing your will. The difference was they came out defensively and turned up the effort and we didn't respond well."
STC senior Jose Fonseca drained a three-pointer near the end of the first half, closing AGWSR's lead to one point before the break. That was the Trojans final basket until Fonseca scored another one almost six minutes into the second half.
AGWSR went on a 14-0 run during a 5:48 stretch in the third quarter. The Cougars scored only three baskets during the first three minutes. However, they made three more and a pair of free throws in the following 2:14. That 14-0 spurt gave the Cougars a 38-23 lead.
"We had some opportunities and instead of getting the ball inside, we started to settle for jump shots," Hammond said. "If jump shots don't go down, you're back on defense. Then (AGWSR) had two little spurts and they are a solid team.
"There were a couple shots (AGWSR) took in the third quarter and we had it absolutely covered," he said. "We made it as difficult of a shot as we can and it still went in. There's nothing you can do about those."
STC seniors Daryl Bidwell and Clay Waterbury scored for the Trojans as they played the Cougars even during the final 2:12 of the third quarter. The Cougars continued to pour it on in the final quarter. They built a 22-point lead in the first 3:37 of the period.
Waterbury made a shot to end AGWSR's run. However, the Cougars extended their lead to 25 points with 2:30 remaining and again with 1:30 left in the game after a basket from STC senior Sam Kuhter.
"You don't like losing and I don't, but it comes down to execution and the little things," Hammond said. "(AGWSR) did those tonight in the second half and we didn't.
"We need to find a way to do the things we did in the first half for four quarters," he added. "If we do that, we'll be fine."
South Tama juniors Nate Hala and Tyler Martens each added a bucket during the final minute. Fonseca led the Trojans with 14 points. Senior Kaleb Davenport added nine, while Waterbury scored seven for the Trojans.
"The unique thing you had tonight was you had two teams that like to run," Hammond said. "Both of us made a concerted effort to not let the other do that. Then you get into executing in half-court and making easy shots. After we righted the ship late in the third quarter and fourth quarter, we missed close shots."
The pace of the game was evident during the first half, especially in the first quarter. Five minutes into the game, both squads had only made two buckets each. Fonseca and Waterbury scored the baskets for South Tama. STC led 8-4 before AGWSR closed the quarter with a 6-0 run.
The second quarter continued to be a close game. AGWSR led 16-12 before STC went on a 8-0 run. Davenport sank a three-pointer to start the run. Kuhter made a free throw, sophomore Grant Koch added a pair of foul shots and Fonseca scored a basket during the spurt. Then the Cougars went on an 8-0 run before Fonseca's three-pointer before halftime.
"In the first half, we followed the game plan to the letter," Hammond said. "That was the best half of defensive basketball we've played all season. Offensively, we had really good opportunities and just couldn't make many shots."
South Tama played at Grundy Center on Tuesday night. The Trojans will play East Marshall at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Le Grand.
"I'm sure they're looking forward to our return," Hammond said of Grundy Center, who was the first team STC beat 55-51 at home this season.