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Trojans offer near upset of No. 1 Xavier

March 1, 2018
By Allison Graham - Sports Editor ( , Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

As the stage for the third round of Boys Substate was set at the U.S. Cellular Center on Monday evening, most had written off the South Tama Trojans. After all, the Trojans came into the night 15-8 and were facing the reigning two time State Champs and the No. 1 team in Class 3A, Xavier (Cedar Rapids).

But for those who have followed the Trojans all season long, they knew the team's potential. For much of the game it seemed like South Tama was going to pull off the upset. Ultimately the Saints were able to stave off the Trojans for a narrow 59-56 win.

STC's Sterling Tyon came out of the gate on fire, racking up 19 points in the first half most of which were from beyond the three point line. Tyon finished the night with seven 3s and 25 total points. He had a simple explanation for his performance.

Article Photos

The STC Trojan basketball team turns to their fan section as they applaud to say thank you for the support following the Trojans narrow loss to Xavier at the U.S. Cellular Center on Monday, Feb. 26.
News Herald Photo/Allison Graham

"I just got hot," said Tyon.

What Tyon was able to accomplish in the first half was thwarted in the second half. Xavier's stud recruit, Matthew Mims, took over the role of guarding Tyon. Mims's defensive coverage on Tyon opened the door for South Tama's leading scorer, Gabe Shields, to go to work. Shields had been fairly quiet offensively in the first half but made some key shots in the second half. He ended the night with 10 points.

By the third quarter the Trojans had stunned Xavier with a 10 point lead at 45-35. But the Saints rallied with a couple of fast breaks and eight unanswered points to cut STC's lead to 2. Moving into the final eight minutes Xavier tied the game at 50. The Saints were sent to the line and scored two free throws to take the lead and the Trojans were never able to recover.

"It was a tough game, tough way to go out," Tyon said. "Unfortunately I couldn't keep the same intensity going in the second half as I did in the first half, but I have to give credit to [Xavier's] Matt Mims. He denied me the ball pretty much the whole time but that's when my other teammates had to step up and they did."

A key component to the Trojans game plan was to shut down Mims offensively. The guy the Trojans looked to for that task was Kaiden Buffalo. Buffalo was up for the challenge and was able to hold Mims who averages 21 points per game, to just 10 points on Monday.

STC's Keith Keahna had another strong night on the boards with 11 points and also had several key defensive rebounds for the Trojans. Keahna will be the only starter returning for the Trojans next season. Justus Ward finished his high school career with eight points.

"I couldn't be any more proud of our effort," said coach Dustin Peska. "The effort was there, the heart was there, the will, the desire, everything was there, we just came up short in the final few seconds. We had an opportunity, actually two opportunities in the last 12 seconds. A couple of open looks to tie it up, but the ball didn't go in."

While the loss may sting for quite some time the Trojans have done something very special with the boys basketball program. They have made a community proud and that is evident by the following the Trojans have received from fans throughout the season. There literally wasn't an empty seat in the Roundhouse especially during the Trojans post season push.



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