ELDORA - Each time South Hardin made a run during the second half, South Tama's girls basketball team answered to maintain its lead after it opened the game up during the second quarter Friday night.
A 14-0 South Tama run that began with the final basket of the first quarter and ended in the second quarter was the difference maker in the North Iowa Cedar League West Division contest. STC never trailed following the second bucket of that game-changing run. South Tama (7-7) went on to defeat South Hardin (5-10) 66-53 behind double-digit scoring from all four starting seniors.
"I'm very happy about that," coach Marsha Keahna said about the Trojans getting back to a .500 record. "I think the girls are, too. I think they knew it was more of a mental thing going into the last weeks of the regular season. It felt good."
South Tama senior Shelby Bradley, right, fakes a pass to senior Jade Rohach during the second half of Friday’s contest at South Hardin. The Trojans made a 14-0 run in the first half to propel them to a 66-53 victory.
Senior Kaleigh Sieck poured in a game-high 20 points and led the Trojans in double figures. Senior Megan Wanatee added 17, senior Shelby Bradley had 12 and senior Jade Rohach scored 10.
"I thought that we worked as a team better," Rohach said. "I also thought we rebounded better. Our overall ball movement was good tonight."
South Hardin started the game with one of its seven three-pointers as it quickly built a 5-2 lead that turned into a 10-4 lead midway through the opening quarter. Buckets by Sieck and Bradley helped STC catchup, but not before South Hardin responded with a basket. Junior Paige Van Dyk hit a three-pointer to cut SH's lead to one before the Tigers hit a free throw. Then sophomore Erin Clayton scored to tie the game and end the first quarter at 13-13.
"(South Hardin) is a tough team," Keahna said. "They came out fired up to win."
The Trojans continued their run with 12-straight points in the second quarter. Rohach started the 12-0 run with two baskets and four other Trojans scored during the run. A layup by Wanatee was the final bucket, before South Hardin hit a three. Wanatee hit a three-pointer and Sieck scored twice to help the Trojans build a 32-24 lead at halftime.
"We came out and they told us they were starting the clock and we had 15 minutes," Keahna said. "We still had girls in the locker room getting dressed. They moved the game along faster than I thought they would after having just half of a freshman game tonight. I thought we'd have a little more time. So yes we came out a little cold and a little flat, but once we warmed up, we were fine."
South Tama increased its lead to 13 points with a Wanatee three-pointer early in the third quarter. South Hardin answered with a barrage of three-pointers on three-consecutive possessions, including two from senior Sabrina DeHerrera, who had another three rattle in and out on the next possession.
South Hardin continued to cut the Trojans lead to one point with 2:23 left in the quarter. However, a three-point play from Bradley added with five points from Sieck, which included a three-pointer, helped the Trojans build its lead back to eight points before the quarter ended.
"We didn't hit the boards very well and I kept yelling that from the bench," Keahna said. "We have to find someone to block out, but that's been our Achilles heel all year, especially offensive rebounds. Somehow we seem to get enough to make it OK. But it's not from not working out at practice."
The home squad Tigers weren't done yet. They chipped away at the STC lead as the Trojans struggled to score during the final eight minutes. The lead was never cut to fewer than four points as the Trojans made enough baskets to keep its lead.
"I think they stepped it up a bit," Keahna said. "We challenged them a bit in the last time out. We told them we have to use the clock in our favor. We just need to take our time running our offense while looking for a layup or good inside basket. We have to take better shots and we did the last few minutes."
South Tama made 10-of-12 free throws during the final 1:12 of the contest. STC sank 18-of-21 foul shots Friday night.
"I was really proud of our senior leadership tonight and how they stepped up, especially on the free throw line," Keahna said. "We are back where we need to be for free throws. I think last night's running might have got their attention, because I don't think they liked it very much."
Rohach confirmed the Trojans running during Thursday's practice.
"We ran a lot," Rohach said. "We don't always shoot as well as we should, so it was nice to make them tonight."
South Tama will play three games this week. STC will play at Wapsie Valley on Tuesday, BCLUW at home Friday and at Union (La Porte City) on Saturday. STC will also play at Gladbrook-Reinbeck on Jan. 29.
"We just need to focus on that and keep up the intensity in practice," Keahna said. "We have some winnable games, but teams aren't going to roll over for us. Gladbrook won't let us roll over at their place."