GRUNDY CENTER South Tama's girls basketball team hung tough for 32 minutes Tuesday night, but they weren't able to upset the North Iowa Cedar League West Division leader.
The Trojans battled up and down the court, playing a rough, physical brand of basketball against their opponents who were playing a similar style. However, the difference in the game was the ability of Grundy Center to make more shots in the first half and build an insurmountable lead.
South Tama never came within 11 points during the second half of the contest. Grundy Center (10-2) defeated the Trojans for the second time this season. Grundy Center, who is unbeaten in NICL West play, defeated South Tama (4-6) 71-57.
South Tama senior Megan Wanatee, right, shoots a running jump shot in the third quarter of Tuesday’s contest at Grundy Center. Wanatee scored 11 points for the Trojans, who were defeated for the second time this season by the Spartans. Grundy Center remained unbeaten in NICL action with its 71-57 victory over the Trojans.
"They fought hard and I'm proud of them," STC coach Marsha Keahna said. "Every time we play (Grundy Center), the girls want to win so badly and I want to win for them, too. We get so close and then we make those technical mistakes like turning the ball over or not hustling back fast enough on defense."
South Tama never led in the contest. Grundy Center started the game with a 4-0 lead before the two teams exchanged baskets. A Grundy Center three-pointer boosted the Spartans lead to four points and South Tama was never able to cut it any closer in the opening quarter.
STC came out and played scrappy in the second quarter. Junior Paige Van Dyk recorded two blocks on one possession early in the quarter. Following a GC basket, the Trojans turned the ball over twice. However, they responded with a layup from senior Megan Wanatee. Then GC hit a three-pointer, which was answered by a three from senior Kaleigh Sieck and another from Grundy Center, which increased the lead to 10 points.
The Trojans were able to make only two more field goals and one free throw during the final 4:30 of the quarter. Meanwhile, Grundy Center scored 11 points, including a 5-0 run before halftime. GC led 41-23 at the break.
"(Grundy Center) got a lead and then that gets in our head," Keahna said. "Then we have to play the head game. Kaleigh had it in her head tonight that she couldn't hit a shot. Once that happens, she won't shoot another one. Then we started driving the ball, because our shots aren't falling from the outside. Then we're in the land of the giants. The mental aspect of the game is always a challenge, but we have to fight it."
Grundy Center continued to maintain its lead in the second half. STC cut it to 15 points after a three-point play from Sieck twice in the third quarter. After the second time, the Spartans scored eight-straight points, before STC junior Samantha Holtz scored a layup to finish the quarter.
"We did do some good things," Keahna said. "We broke their press, got the ball down the floor and got a good look. Unfortunately, our good looks didn't fall and theirs did tonight."
Grundy Center opened the fourth quarter with a basket, which increased its lead to 23 points. Then the Trojans began clawing back and eventually cut the lead to 11 points near the end of the contest by outscoring GC 18-6 during a six-minute stretch.
South Tama started the rally with three-straight baskets, which came from senior Jade Rohach, Sieck and Wanatee. Following a GC free throw, Rohach scored a layup and hit a pair of foul shots, cutting the lead to 14 points.
More than a minute later, Holtz hit one free throw and another shot after grabbing an offensive rebound, slicing the lead to 13 points. Sieck stole a GC pass and was fouled on a layup 16 seconds after Holtz's baskets. Sieck hit both foul shots and the Trojans trailed 63-52 with 2:13 remaining in the game. Senior Shelby Bradley hit a three-pointer a minute later to cut the lead to 11 points again.
"We passed it, instead of trying to drive it everywhere," Keahna said. "We finally started moving without the ball and that's a big key for us. We can't stand in one spot and watch the ball. We have to move without the ball. We did some of that tonight and we started making shots. We need to get our shots from inside the paint. We don't always do that.
"I think we got fatigued in the end," she added. "Kudos to our bench for stepping up the way it did. Sam Holtz had a heck of a game out there playing tough. We just need everyone to play fired up all of the time. I think they realize that's the intensity we need to go out all of the time, not just when we're down 10, but from the word go."
Grundy Center didn't score field goal during the final 7:33 of the game. The Spartans only field goal of the fourth quarter came on its opening possession. Their final 11 points were all scored at the free throw stripe.
"We got called for a lot of ticky-tacky little fouls," Keahna said. "(Grundy Center) went to the line a lot, especially in the fourth quarter. We put them there too much tonight. I thought the officials did a nice job calling the game in the first half. It was even. We were each 1-of-4 from the free throw line. In the second half, it wasn't so even anymore."
STC will try to end its two-game losing streak Friday in Le Grand against East Marshall. The game will begin at 6:15 p.m. STC beat East Marshall 53-37 at home on Dec. 4.
"We got more things to work on Wednesday and Thursday in practice," Keahna said. "Hopefully we can go play well at East Marshall on Friday and get a win."