Even Senior Night couldn't stop a losing streak.
Six South Tama boys basketball seniors celebrated their final game inside the STC round house Tuesday night. Early turnovers and a barrage of three-pointers from Benton Community were too much for the Trojans to overcome. Benton defeated the Trojans 70-47. The Trojans' losing skid extended to seven games as they've lost 13 of the their last 15 games.
"When you play a team like Benton Community, you have to make sure you play well for all four quarters," coach Lonnie Hammond said. "That means making shots when you have opportunities. It wasn't a four-quarter game for us."
South Tama senior Brad Evans (No. 24) dribbles toward the rim during the first quarter Tuesday night. Evans scored seven points in the Trojans’ 70-47 loss to Benton Community. Evans was one of six STC seniors honored before the game.
Tuesday's contest quickly got out of hand, in favor of the Bobcats. Despite only having seven wins previous to Tuesday, the Bobcats took it to an STC team that hadn't played in a week. The Bobcats built a 5-0 lead after three minutes, thanks to three free throws and five STC turnovers.
Senior Sam Kuhter put South Tama on the scoreboard after grabbing an offensive rebound and scoring a layup. Then the Bobcats scored nine unanswered points, including the first of nine three-pointers for the team. Senior Brad Evans scored an old-fashioned three-point play for the Trojans with 2:25 left in the quarter. The Bobcats answered with a pair of threes, taking a 20-5 lead after the first period.
Free throws from Kuhter and senior Jose Fonseca, along with a basket from sophomore Ian Slagle, cut the lead by four points at the beginning of the second quarter. Benton answered again with an 18-2 run during the next four minutes, expanding its lead to 38-11. The Bobcats were spurred by four long-range shots during the run.
Finding itself on the verge of being blown out on its home court, South Tama responded with a flurry to finish the first half. STC scored the final nine points during the last 2:37 of the half. Evans made two baskets, while sophomore Grant Koch and senior Daryl Bidwell each made a bucket for the Trojans. Fonseca finished it off with a three-pointer nine seconds before the buzzer.
"We knew that they shot a lot of threes," Hammond said. "We turned the ball over a few times, too. We didn't get a great start. We battled back in the second quarter, but that was a pretty big mountain to try and climb up."
Despite momentum on its side, the Trojans' offense struggled in the third quarter. A basket from Fonseca kept the Trojans within 16 points early in the quarter, but then the Bobcats put the game away during the next six minutes.
"We battled back in the second quarter and felt good going into halftime," Hammond said. "I thought we came out of the locker room with the right energy. It just didn't happen tonight."
During the final six minutes of the third quarter, Benton outscored the Trojans 15-2. The Trojans made only a pair of free throws, while Benton scored with ease and opened up a 29-point advantage heading into the fourth quarter.
"You can't score four points in a quarter at the varsity level, unless its overtime, and have success," Hammond said. "You have to be able to score and you have to be able to do things on both ends."
South Tama nearly doubled its three-quarter offensive output during the final quarter. Bidwell scored the first five points before Kuhter sank a three-pointer. Fonseca scored the next six STC points on a pair of three-pointers. Juniors Nate Hala and Drake Cherveny made the final two buckets of the game during the final minute after the six STC seniors exited the game to a standing ovation.
"I want to give a call out to all of our seniors," Hammond said. "I thought they handled the night with a lot of class. I think that's a mark of these six seniors. They continued to play hard. It would have been nice if we would have had a different result, but it wasn't to be."
The Trojans' regular season finished Tuesday. They will play at 7 p.m. Monday at Grinnell for their first-round Class 3A Regional 6 game. The Tigers beat the Trojans by 35 points last week and by 16 points during the opening game of the season.
"Whatever pipe dreams you want to have, the season isn't done until the final horn sounds," Hammond said. "The nice part about tournament play, you only have to be better than the other team one night. Then you move on. Obviously, we know Grinnell and Grinnell knows us. We'll go down; play as hard as we can, as well as we can and see what the result will be."