For the first time all season, the South Tama girls basketball team has as many wins as losses, but it wasn't easy.
Riding a two-game winning streak, the Trojans had to battle a feisty, competitive Gladbrook-Reinbeck squad at home Tuesday night. The two teams sprinted up and down the floor in a fast-paced contest for 32 minutes.
There were plenty of turnovers and layups from both squads. Fatigue set in during the second half for the Trojans, but they were able to hold off the Rebels. South Tama (4-4) defeated the Rebels (2-7) 83-72, winning its third-straight game.
South Tama junior Trisha Walz scores two of her game-high 22 points Tuesday night against Gladbrook-Reinbeck. STC won the game 83-72.
"The win was the important thing," coach Marsha Keahna said. "Wild is a nice word for it."
STC improved to 4-2 in North Iowa Cedar League West Division action.
"It was nice to get the win," junior Trisha Walz said. "We're coming together more and learning how each other plays. Now we're winning so we're starting to get it figured out."
Walz led the Trojans with a career-high 22 points, which included 10-of-13 free throws. Senior Kaleigh Sieck and Jade Rohach also scored in double figures Tuesday with 15 and 13 points, respectively.
"That was nice to do for once," Walz said. "I haven't been scoring much for the last couple of games."
Walz was the beneficiary of her teammates' ability to break down the Rebels full-court press and half-court trapping defense. Her teammates found her open under the basket a handful of times and she made six field goals on top of shooting 13 foul shots.
"It was more tiring, but it was fun to get the fast breaks," Walz said. "We had a lot of open looks because we beat their press."
The Trojans coach was happy for her junior, who starts but was only averaging three points per game during the first seven games of the season.
"She was that one that was open down low on our press breaker," Keahna said. "When we ran the floor, she would get a nice open look. Everybody needs a good game like that. When one person gets hot, the rest of the team needs to see that and keep feeding that one person. We still have to work on the teamwork part of our game. We talked about that after the game in the locker room."
South Tama's teamwork was evident in the first quarter of Tuesday's contest. STC jumped out to a quick lead as it easily broke the Rebels' press and converted on the offensive end. STC led 8-0 just 88 seconds into the game and it continued to build its lead throughout the quarter.
Six Trojans scored in the first quarter as they built a 20-point lead. Sieck drained a pair of three-pointers while Rohach and Walz each scored six points. The Trojans led 29-6 until a late Rebels three-pointer ended the quarter.
The Rebels started to chip away at the South Tama lead in the second quarter as they hit a pair of three-pointers. The STC lead was down to 12 points, until senior Megan Wanatee helped the Trojans finish the half with a 5-0, as she contributed four of those.
"To come out in the first quarter and beat them 29-9 was great," Keahna said. "Then we let them score 15 points in the second quarter and get back in the game. That was beating ourselves."
South Tama maintained a double-digit lead during the third quarter, despite the Rebels cutting the STC lead to 10 points three times. The Trojans answered each time with a basket from Sieck, junior Paige Van Dyk and junior Regina Balderas.
The Trojans held on to their double-digit advantage for much of the fourth quarter, too. They answered each small run by the Rebels. The lead was cut to nine points after the Rebels hit one of their four three-pointers of the quarter with just 2:08 remaining in the game.
It was again down to eight points after another three during the final minute. The Trojans made 7-of-8 free throws during the final two minutes of the game.
"(G-R) is a run-and-gun team," Keahna said. "They have 15 players on the bench, so they just rotate three or four in at a time. Then they press you everywhere. I do think we got tired tonight and I'd like to thank the bench for stepping up the way it did tonight. Regina Balderas did a really nice job of coming in and playing tough defense. Hailee comes in and gives her best. Erin gave Jade a breather, but it's not exactly Erin's style of ball."
Despite the win, South Tama did struggle with turnovers on Tuesday night. STC committed 41 turnovers in the fast-paced contest.
"We told them before the game that just because (G-R) is a run-and-gun team, it doesn't mean we have to be a run-and-gun team," Keahna said. "They like to double team and trap everywhere they go, so we told them to look up for a white shirt. Then if you can get it there, make a good pass and don't just throw it down the floor.
"When we did that, we had some really nice looks," she added. "Then if we didn't get it, we sometimes swung the ball around and ran our offense, which turned into some really nice shots. When we tried to play their game, which was drive in and take the first shot we had, then we got frustrated and made another bad turnover."
South Tama played Thursday in La Porte City against Union in its final game before Christmas break. STC will next be on the court Jan. 4 at home against AGWSR.