GRUNDY CENTER - For the second-straight contest, South Tama's boys basketball team was doomed by an ugly third quarter.
Tuesday's road game was uglier than Friday's third quarter, which proved to be the difference in the last two games. On Friday, the Trojans were outscored 21-7 in the third quarter by AGWSR. They scored only nine points, which was 19 less than the Grundy Center Spartans, in the same quarter Tuesday.
The Spartans converted STC turnovers into layups as they took a second-half lead and pulled away from their opponents. Grundy Center (3-9) defeated South Tama (4-6) 67-53.
South Tama senior Sam Kuhter (15) scores a layup during the third quarter of Tuesday’s North Iowa Cedar League West Division action. Kuhter scored a team-high 20 points in the Trojans 67-53 loss at Grundy Center.
"If you turn the ball over and give up easy baskets, it's difficult to be successful," STC coach Lonnie Hammond said. "That's absolutely true tonight."
South Tama finished the half on a 4-0 run. Sophomore Grant Koch made a basket with 3:15 left in the half. Then senior Sam Kuhter made a layup with 0:32 remaining to give STC a 29-25 lead at the break.
The Trojans started the second half with a pair of turnovers against the Grundy Center full-court press. GC converted those into six-straight points in the first 1:12. Following a South Tama timeout, senior Jose Fonseca grabbed an offensive rebound and made a layup to tie the contest.
Then the Spartans' press proved too much for South Tama during the next six minutes. They forced STC into 11 turnovers in the third quarter. They rattled off an 12-0 run and another 10-3 spurt to end the quarter. Kuhter scored six points for STC, which was outscored 28-9 in the period.
"This is the second game in a row we've had this conversation," Hammond said. "When you come out of the locker room, the first three minutes are the most important.
"I took three timeouts in that quarter," he added. "We talked about halftime that this is what (Grundy Center) were going to do to us. We told the guys to be ready for it and we adjusted to it. Then we just didn't execute."
After the dust settled, South Tama trailed Grundy Center by 15 points after the third quarter. The Spartans quickly increased it to 20 points early in the final quarter with a 8-3 run. Fonseca converted a three-point play for STC. However, two more STC turnovers turned into Spartans layups.
Fonseca and Kuhter helped close the gap in half during a 2:30 stretch. Fonseca hit a three-pointer to start the run. Kuhter scored a layup on an assist from senior Clay Waterbury. More than a minute later, Kuhter drained a three-pointer on an assist from Fonseca. Seconds later, senior Kaleb Davenport stole the ball and scored a layup, closing the Spartans' lead to 10 points.
Grundy Center answered with a 6-0 run, which started with a pair of free throws and ended with a steal and layup. Davenport scored the final basket of the game to end the GC 6-0 spurt.
"We had it down to 10," Hammond said. "With 3:49 left in the game, we had it down to 10 points. The first time we played them, it was the same thing, except it was four minutes. We felt good and the momentum was coming our way.
"In one of the timeouts, I said, 'There's no 14-point play. It's one possession at a time,'" he said. "We were doing that and sometimes they're going to score. If you're trading two-for-one and making them do things, but it just didn't happen. You have to give (Grundy Center) credit. The first time we played them, they didn't handle it. Tonight, they did."
Both squads battled back and forth during the first half. There were five lead changes during the first 12 minutes. Davenport and Fonseca each hit three-pointers in the first quarter to help the Trojans take an 8-5 lead. Then the Spartans finished the quarter with a 10-4 run.
Baskets from Davenport, Koch and Kuhter helped STC take a 19-16 lead early in the second quarter. Seniors Daryl Bidwell and Brad Evans also joined in on the three-point shooting as each hit one before halftime.
"Both teams started out a little ragged, because both were imposing their wills," Hammond said. "We went back and forth for a while and that's OK. At that point, the first team that can right their ship will be in great shape. They were able to right theirs before we did.
"The first half was great," he said. "We forced them into things that they didn't want to do. We missed probably four offensive put-backs. We were getting offensive rebounds and our shots were in rhythm. There was a stretch where we were running the zone offense right and we pretty much had our will at both ends. Again, a tale of two halves."
South Tama will try ending its two-game losing streak Friday night in Le Grand against East Marshall.
"We need to get into practice and work on some things," Hammond said. "Accepting that, actually accomplishing that and moving forward are the next steps."