CONRAD - Signs of an improving South Tama boys basketball team are continuing to show themselves during the early portion of the season.
After matching last year's win total of three on Tuesday night, South Tama took another step forward on Friday night. For the first time in three years, the Trojans won a game away from their home gymnasium.
The Trojans rallied from a deficit of six in the second quarter to lead by six after three quarters. They maintained their lead during the final minutes and beat BCLUW 58-50. The Trojans improved to 4-2 overall and 4-1 in North Iowa Cedar League play.
South Tama senior Vinny Lasley dribbles around a BLCUW player during the second quarter Friday night. STC won the game 58-50.
"This was a good test," coach Lonnie Hammond said. "There are no easy nights in this conference. You go on the road and these are going to happen. Fortunately, in our eyes, the right team won."
South Tama began its comeback in the second quarter, but fell behind by four in the third quarter. STC held BCLUW scoreless during the final 3:54 of the third period. Meanwhile, STC went on an 8-0 run to take a 43-37 lead.
Senior Sam Kuhter started the rally with an offensive rebound and basket. Senior Vinny Lasley made a layup off an assist from senior Jose Fonseca. Seconds later, Lasley stole the ball and dished an assist to senior Kaleb Davenport, who scored the final two buckets of the quarter.
"It's good when everyone is running the floor, too, and not just one person," Lasley said. "We need everyone to run the floor."
STC continued pushing the pace early in the fourth quarter. Lasley threw down a dunk after an STC steal. However, he was called for a technical foul after hanging on the rim to avoid landing on a BCLUW player. The Comets player missed both free throws and South Tama scored two more baskets after the missed foul shots.
"That's an exciting play," Hammond said of the dunk. "He got the energy going and we feed off of that. It was a boost for us."
When asked if the technical foul or dunk fired up the Trojans, Lasley had a quick answer.
"I think it was more the dunk," Lasley said. "It kind of got us pumped, especially after he missed the two free throws."
South Tama maintained a lead of 10 points or more for the final minutes, despite missing a handful of free throws. BCLUW hit a three-pointer with 14 seconds left to score the final basket.
"The kids pointed out in the locker room that this is the first time South Tama has won on the road since 2008," Hammond said. "It's been a while. I think we won this game tonight, because in the fourth quarter, we defended first. We hit just enough free throws, but we could have made more and made it easier. But we defended.
"It was a conscious effort on part of the kids to defend, limit their shots and make them run some clock," he said. "Then we did a better job at crunch time of just running offense in the half court. We could still improve on it, but we did a much better job of it than we did against South Hardin."
The Trojans and Comets played a fairly even first half. The Comets led from the beginning as STC was only able to tie it once during the first quarter. However, the Comets lead grew no larger than five points as they hit a pair of three-pointers during the opening quarter.
Fonseca and Lasley quickly gave South Tama a lead in the first 1:24 of the second quarter. Fonseca scored three points and Lasley made two layups, giving STC a 17-15 advantage. BCLUW responded with a 10-2 run during the next three minutes.
A basket from Kuhter, a shot from Fonseca and a three-point play from Fonseca quickly gave the Trojans the lead. The two teams exchanged buckets before halftime. BCLUW led 31-30 at the break.
"That run was fueled by defending in the half court," Hammond said. "Obviously, we like to get a full-court game and get going fast. We did a little bit tonight, but you can also do that through your half-court defense by picking up the loose balls and creating turnovers. We did a better job of that in the second half, than we did in the first half. You win the game in the second half and we did that."
South Tama's players walked out of the locker room with smiles after winning their first road game since 2008.
"It feels pretty good after losing the other ones," Lasley said. "I hope this will give us some confidence, especially going into the game at Vinton."
The Trojans headed to Vinton-Shellsburg on Monday night. They will play Thursday in La Porte City against Union.