For the first time in nearly a month, the South Tama boys basketball team played well early in the second half and ended a five-game losing streak.
The Trojans dropped their fifth-straight game on Friday at East Marshall. Then they recovered the next day, around 14 hours after losing to the Mustangs. The Trojans defeated Jesup at Wartburg College, ending their losing skid.
South Tama was backed by big first and third quarters in Saturday's victory. STC was outscored in the fourth quarter, but won the game 61-58.
South Tama sophomore Ian Slagle attempts a guarded shot Friday night. Slagle provided the Trojans a quick burst of offense in the third quarter.
The Trojans led 19-9 after one quarter and then took a 30-29 lead into halftime. South Tama then outscored Jesup 18-8 in the third to regain a big lead and hung on in the fourth quarter.
Senior Sam Kuhter scored 19 points to lead two Trojans in double-figures. Sophomore Grant Koch had 10 points for the Trojans, who improved to 5-7 following the win. Seniors Clay Waterbury and Jose Fonseca each had eight apiece in the win.
On Friday night, the Trojans were once again involved in a close contest. For the third-straight game, they were locked in a tight game at halftime, but struggled after the break. They were outscored 19-8 in the third quarter en route to losing 56-47 at East Marshall.
"It's just a game and they're just high school kids," coach Lonnie Hammond said. "But that doesn't make it any less frustrating.
"I will give the kids credit," he said. "In the locker room, they said we have to move on. We just have to keep working on it. It's not like we have to reinvent the wheel, we just have to make sure all of the bolts are tight on it."
Both squads battled closely throughout the first half. STC led 8-2 early in the game. Fonseca got STC started with a basket. In less than a minute, Waterbury hit a three-pointer and Kuhter scored a traditional three-point play for the Trojans.
East Marshall rallied back to the tie game in less than three minutes. STC found itself in foul trouble later in the quarter and the Mustangs took advantage of it with a 7-0 run to end the quarter. Kuhter, Fonseca and Waterbury each had two personal fouls before the quarter was finished.
The Trojans fought back from a 10-point deficit in the second quarter on two different occasions. They scored the final six points of the half on a shot from Waterbury and four points from Fonseca. East Marshall led 27-23 at the break.
The Mustangs took control of the game in the third quarter. They started the second half with a 9-0 run that included a three-pointer, two STC turnovers and a third foul on Kuhter. STC scored six of its eight points in the quarter during the final 3:42.
"It comes down to making simple plays," Hammond said. "Tonight, when we made simple plays on both ends of the floor, we were fine. When we tried to do more than we are capable of as an individual or as a team, or making trying to make it in one pass instead of two, then we get into trouble. For lack of a better term, we need to be more disciplined on the floor. It doesn't mean that we are going to slow down to a walk. It means understanding the point in the game, where is the ball and making good decisions."
South Tama tried to mount a rally in the fourth quarter. After a quick EM bucket, STC scored the next nine points. Sophomore Ian Slagle started the rally with back-to-back baskets and a free throw as his size was too much for the Mustangs, forcing a quick EM timeout after his shots.
"As frustrating as this loss is, I want to give a pat on the back to Ian Slagle," Hammond said. "He came off the bench and had played virtually no varsity minutes. We threw him in a situation and I thought he did a nice job. Is that something we should maybe look at more? It's something that only time will tell. When those kind of things happen, maybe that's the point in the season where you've got a young kid who's been working and trying hard and suddenly he's like 'coach take a look at me.'"
Senior Kaleb Davenport and Fonseca also scored as the Mustangs lead was chopped to eight points with 4:48 remaining. Both teams went scoreless for nearly three minutes, before the Mustangs made six foul shots down the stretch to win the game.
"We cut the lead to eight points with the ball," Hammond said. "Then we come down and turn it over. You can't do those things when you're in that position."
South Tama hosts West Marshall on Tuesday night. On Friday, STC travels to Eldora to play South Hardin.