South Tama County High School was the site of a thrilling, double overtime boys basketball game Tuesday night, where it was unfortunate that either team had to lose.
STC hosted West Marshall, who is leading the North Iowa Cedar League West Division, and came close to beating the visiting Trojans twice. Both squads had chances to win the game in regulation and the first overtime, before the second overtime almost ended in another tie.
However, West Marshall didn't have to inbound the ball after the final shot was made by South Tama. West Marshall let the final two seconds tick away as it improved to 13-2, while STC fell to 5-8 as it lost 72-71.
South Tama senior Jose Fonseca scores an uncontested layup during the first half Tuesday night at home. Fonseca led the Trojans with 25 points as they almost upset West Marshall in double overtime. West Marshall won 72-71.
"I am so incredibly proud of those kids that put on that uniform from South Tama," STC coach Lonnie Hammond said. "We played as hard as we humanly could. It's tough to lose a game like, but when you play that hard and that well, you can still walk away feeling positively. We made mistakes and so did they. You can learn from it, but it's not a case of things you can do better. We will learn from this. I'm so proud of them."
West Marshall entered the final quarter of the game with a two-point lead, but South Tama hung tough as the two NICL teams battled during the remaining 16 minutes as they did during the first 24 minutes.
Senior Brad Evans tied the game at 47-47 with 5:02 remaining. Evans completed a three-point play, tying the game for the first time in seven minutes. After a pair of WM free throws, sophomore Grant Koch scored a layup and senior Jose Fonseca completed a three-point play to give STC a three-point advantage with 3:17 left. Koch added another basket off an assist from senior Sam Kuhter, before West Marshall went on a 6-0 run during a 48-second stretch late in the fourth quarter.
Kuhter ended the WM run with a bucket underneath the basket off an assist from Koch, giving STC a 56-55 lead with 0:46 remaining. West Marshall star Duncan Ferch, who finished with a game-high 37 points, scored 20 seconds later, taking a lead for the visitors. Senior Clay Waterbury was accidently fouled at mid-court following an STC timeout. Waterbury hit 1-of-2 foul shots, tying the game.
Ferch missed the game-winning jump shot with 0:04 left in the game. Koch rebounded the ball, but his quick pass was stolen by Ferch, who threw up a shot that bounced off the rim. The game headed to overtime, tied at 57-57.
"We played a team that's going to win the conference title," Hammond said. "Duncan Ferch is probably the best player in the conference. You're not going to keep him from getting the ball and you're not going to keep him from shooting the ball. If you can make him work for it, turn him into a contested shooter and don't give him easy layups, you can slow them down.
"There were a lot of points scored tonight, but very few fast breaks," he said. "We wanted the game slowed down. We executed on our end offensively. We got the ball inside and did some good things. We had some good opportunities. There were shots that Duncan Ferch took tonight where we were draped all over him. Those were tough shots and they went in. You just tip your hat to him."
South Tama took a quick 60-57 lead in overtime following a free throw from Koch and an offensive rebound and basket from Kuhter. Then West Marshall hit two free throws and converted an STC turnover into a layup. Fonseca hit a jump shot seconds later to give STC a one-point advantage with 1:28 remaining in overtime.
STC made four foul shots and Ferch hit another shot during the next minute. STC led 66-63 with 24 seconds left in the game. Then Ferch hit a huge three-pointer, tying the contest with 14 seconds remaining. STC rushed the ball down the court and Fonseca threw up a three-pointer, which narrowly missed. Then Fonseca nearly committed a fatal error by fouling West Marshall's Ferch with only four seconds left in the game. Ferch missed his foul shot and STC grabbed the rebound to end the first overtime.
"You can come back to this game and micromanage it down to one play made the difference," Hammond said. "But this wasn't decided by one play. This was just two teams that played their hearts out and one team won. It wasn't us. The kids and I are walking away from this with a tremendous amount of positives."
in the second overtime, South Tama struggled to run its offense. STC turned the ball over four times as West Marshall built a 71-67 lead. West Marshall could have put the game away, but it struggled from the foul line. WM senior Jake Pszanka made 3-of-10 free throws during the first 3:10 of the second overtime.
STC tried clawing back in the game during the final minute. Kuhter scored a bucket with 28 seconds remaining. Then STC put on full-court pressure and nearly had a steal. The ball appeared to bounce out of bounds off of a West Marshall player under the STC basket, but the official ruled oppositely. West Marshall junior Matt Van Metre hit 1-of-2 foul shots after he was fouled by Fonseca, who committed his fifth and final foul.
"When you play double overtime, you run that risk," Hammond said of players fouling out. "You have some players who have played extended minutes."
The second free throw missed and both teams rebounded it, but STC gained possession on the jump ball. WM called a timeout with 16 seconds left in the game. Following the timeout, Waterbury's three-pointer rattled in and out, before senior Daryl Bidwell grabbed the rebound and scored with 0:02 remaining. WM let the clock run out, winning the game 72-71.
"The first thing the kids were talking about is how happy and proud they were that they played well the entire game," Hammond said. "They didn't just play all four quarters; they played six quarters. It wasn't that long ago, we were struggling to play four quarters and tonight we played six. The improvement they've shown in the last week and a half is amazing. They have the confidence and know what it looks like. It's just exciting to watch these kids grow. You can't ask any more of them."
Both squads battled tough in the first half, too. South Tama slowed the pace of the game and tried to make Ferch work for his shots. Meanwhile, Fonseca hit two three-pointers en route to scoring eight points in the first quarter as STC led 15-13.
STC built a five-point lead in the second quarter thanks to four more points from Fonseca and a basket from Kuhter. West Marshall rallied to tie the game at 21-21. Both teams exchanged leads during the final minutes of the half, but WM led 25-23 at the break.
"At half, we talked about how we were following the game plan and accomplishing the things we wanted to," Hammond said. "When you're down two, that's just one possession. (West Marshall) started the second half with the ball. They missed, we rebounded, we came down and scored. It's tied. From there, the game is brand new.
"We wanted to keep doing the things we were doing well," Hammond added. "We tightened up a bit, but keep playing hard and making plays, while also making sure you commit to getting back so they don't get easy baskets, defend and rebound. I thought we did that tonight."
Fonseca scored a career-high 25 points to go with seven rebounds for South Tama, while Kuhter had 19 points and nine boards. Koch came up with 10 points and Waterbury finished with seven for STC.
South Tama will travel to Eldora on Friday to play South Hardin, before traveling to Fairbank on Tuesday to play Wapsie Valley. STC will be back at home Jan. 25 to play BCLUW.