WELLMAN - Just when it seemed momentum had swung in favor of the Lady Trojans . poof it was quickly gone in a matter of a few minutes.
South Tama's girls basketball team trailed Mid-Prairie for nearly 24 minutes in its first-round game of the Class 3A Region 6 contest. Then an 11-0 run put STC ahead, but before the Trojans could enjoy the lead, it was gone.
Mid-Prairie made a run to close out the third quarter, which proved to be the difference in Saturday's contest. That run, combined with a poor offensive output from South Tama, ended the Lady Trojans season. Mid-Prairie (16-6) won the game 54-40 and South Tama finished its season with an 11-11 record.
South Tama seniors Megan Wanatee, left, and Kaleigh Sieck watch the final seconds tick away Saturday after playing their last minutes as Trojans. STC lost to Mid-Prairie 54-40 in the first-round of the regional tournament.
"It's a tough one," coach Marsha Keahna said. "It's tougher for some people than others. It would have been nice to keep going, but we saw a team on that floor that wanted it more. We made our run and we tried, but we didn't keep going. We didn't turn up the heat the extra degree, I think. It didn't swing our way. We made a good effort in the second and third quarters. Unfortunately, we turned the heat off. That's when we need to turn it up even hotter."
The emotion of the loss began to show as three of the five seniors, all of whom start for the Lady Trojans, were taken out of the game during the final minute. Those emotions and tears carried over into the locker room as it was the final time the five STC seniors will share the same locker room.
"In the locker room, I asked a couple of them, 'If you feel like you gave 110 percent and you left it all on the court, then there's nothing to hang your head about,'" Keahna said. "If you can't answer that, then you have to deal with it.' I also told them, 'some of you are going on to play ball somewhere else or play volleyball. It's basketball. It's just a game of basketball. It's not life. It's not the end of the world. Your world is just going to start. You're going to move on and do better things.'"
Before the Lady Trojans' season ended Saturday night, they fought tooth and nail to keep their season alive for at least one more game. However, they would find themselves in an uphill climb from the beginning. The Lady Trojans turned the ball over three times during the opening 1:19. Meanwhile, the Golden Hawks built a quick 5-0 lead.
STC senior Shelby Bradley ended the scoreless beginning with a layup off an assist from senior Kaleigh Sieck. Then Bradley picked up her second personal foul a minute later and she sat the rest of the quarter on the bench.
Mid-Prairie made two baskets following a pair of STC turnovers, before draining a three-pointer to take a12-2 lead just 2:32 into the game. Keahna immediately called a timeout and tried to settle her team. It might have worked as the Lady Trojans outscored Mid-Prairie 10-3 during the next five minutes. Sieck sank 6-of-6 free throws and senior Jade Rohach scored the other four points during the rally.
South Tama's offense struggled early in the second quarter. STC missed four three-pointer attempts as Mid-Prairie built a 23-14 advantage with 3:27 remaining in the half. Once again, South Tama rallied and cut the lead. Senior Megan Wanatee scored three points, while Sieck and Rohach added four and two points, respectively, as STC cut the lead to 25-23 at halftime.
"I told the girls on the bench, 'if you're upset about your amount of playing time, take it out on me and not the girls on the floor. Coach Rohach and I put in who we think is going to be best at that moment. It's a judgment call on our part. If we make the wrong call, then we have to live with that, too. You can be upset about not getting as much time as you wanted, but don't take it out on the girls who were on the floor, because it wasn't their fault. If you have a problem, come talk to me or coach Rohach about it.'"
The third quarter was filled with runs that changed the game. Mid-Prairie scored the first four points. Then the Lady Trojans went on an 11-0 run, sparked by baskets from Wanatee, Rohach and junior Paige Van Dyk, along with the Lady Trojans' only three-pointer of the game, which was made by Sieck.
STC later led 36-32 with 1:39 left in the quarter after two foul shots from Sieck. Then the wheels fell off of the STC wagon. Three turnovers helded the Golden Hawks finish the quarter on a 9-0 run during a 90-second flurry. Rohach hit a jump shot to start the fourth quarter, cutting the lead to three points, but the Golden Hawks responded with a 7-0 run as they grabbed offensive rebounds and turned STC turnovers into layups.
Sieck hit a pair of free throws with 5:47 left in the game and those would be the final points of the Lady Trojans' season. Mid-Prairie closed the game with foul shots.
"We didn't shoot around and we had ACTs today," Keahna said. "There was stuff going on. We had several that did that this morning. It could have been any number of things. It could have been (Mid-Prairie) wanted it more. Give credit to them. They are a good ball team and they fight for everything they got. They have good rebounders and they look to dish the ball.
"It's a hard lesson to learn," she added. "It tastes bitter. It doesn't taste nearly as good as beating Grinnell by 17.
Sieck and Rohach were the only Lady Trojans to score in double figures. Sieck led the team with 21 points, while Rohach scored 10 points. As a team, the Lady Trojans made 19-of-27 free throws and 1-of-15 three-pointers..
"The South Tama girls basketball players and I would like to thank all of our parents, relatives, friends and fans for their continued support throughout the season," Keahna said. "It was always great to see and hear all of your support and you'll never know how much that meant to all of us. Thank you again and we hope to see you all next season."