Despite being a closely-contested game for the majority of the 32 minutes, South Tama County boys basketball squad never trailed in its home contest against South Hardin.
The Trojans and Tigers were tied at 2-2 less than a minute into the contest, but the Trojans never let their opponents lead the game. The Trojans (3-2) held off the Tigers 74-59 and bounced back from Friday's road loss.
"After watching the film from Friday night, we talked about what we need to do to get better," coach Lonnie Hammond said. "A lot of it was just making sure we were playing together on both ends of the floor. I thought we did a better job of that tonight.
South Tama senior Clay Waterbury splits two South?Hardin defenders as he scores a layup Tuesday night. Waterbury scored four points in the Trojans 74-59 victory.
"Defensively, I think we probably played better than the score indicates, especially in the second half," he said. "We would create the opportunity and not make good on it on the other end. We had some opportunities out of our defense to make some layups or run some half-court offense. When you put 74 points on the board it's still a good night."
Senior Sam Kuhter, who led the Trojans with 21 points, said the STC players knew they could win Tuesday, but had to go out and do it.
"We knew this was a beat-able team," Kuhter said. "We knew if we came out and played our game that we could take these guys down. That's what happened tonight."
South Tama scored the first basket of the game, but South Hardin tied it at 2-2 on its first possession. STC scored again, taking a 4-2 lead that it never relinquished for the remainder of the game.
Sophomore Grant Koch and senior Kaleb Davenport each hit a three-pointer early in the first quarter, helping STC build a 12-4 lead. South Hardin cut the lead to two points, but STC answered it as it did throughout the contest.
South Hardin hit a three-pointer at the end of the first quarter and another to begin the second quarter, cutting the Trojans lead to one point. Senior Brad Evans scored a minute later, off an assist from senior Jose Fonseca. Kuhter scored nine of the final 12 STC points in the second quarter. Fonseca scored the other three as STC led 36-27 at the break.
"When we can pick up the tempo, we can do good things, because we are athletic enough," Kuhter said. "That's what happened tonight. We played up-tempo and that's the way we like to play. It worked out for us. We have a lot of guys with good court vision. When you have that, you can find open guys, make some cuts and get easy shots."
South Hardin junior Bryce Zeiseiness tried to rally the Tigers after sitting out much of the first half with foul trouble. He scored six points during the opening three minutes of the second half, cutting the Trojans lead to seven points as they continued to score. The Trojans led by nine points, 51-42, at the end of the third quarter.
STC's lead was cut to six points twice in the first two minutes of the fourth quarter. Then senior Vinny Lasley and Fonseca each made two free throws. Kuhter also made a basket, boosting the gap to 12 points. It remained a double-digit lead for the final five minutes as South Tama won its second home game of the season.
"We made a few key free throws at the end," Hammond said. "That's a mark of this team. There comes a point in the fourth quarter of games that this senior class doesn't get rattled. They know this is the point where they need to go make plays and execute. They did that tonight."
South Tama has already matched its win total from last year and its only played five games. Kuhter credits part of turnaround to the success of the Trojans football team this fall.
"It's really nice to be turning things around from last year," Kuhter said. "We are trying to carry on our winning tradition from football. It's a lot more fun to win than what we did last year.
"We have a lot of guys on this team that played football," he added. "We know what it takes to win and we have that winning mentality, so we can win games. We brought that over from the football season."
Fonseca and Lasley scored in double figures as they scored 15 and 14 points, respectively. They both had double-doubles, snaring 12 and 10 rebounds respectively, while Lasley added eight assists and five steals for the Trojans.
"We need to play fast, but we don't need to play out of control," Hammond said. "There were a few times that we probably got away with it tonight. There's a fine line when you're trying to play fast. When do you slow them down, especially when you have a run going? That's just something that we continue to work on in practice."
South Tama will next play at 7:45 p.m. Friday in Conrad against BCLUW. (1-4).
"They have a new coach and they're fairly young," Hammond said. "Like I've said before, in this conference there are no easy nights and it's a road game. We need to learn to win on the road. That opportunity will come this Friday."