FAIRBANK - Defensive pressure, tenacity and three-point shooting were large factors in Tuesday's North Iowa Cedar League boys basketball game Tuesday night.
Wapsie Valley out played South Tama County in all three areas of the game. The Warriors' defense and three-pointers were too much for South Tama early in the contest as they built a lead that they never relinquished. Wapsie Valley cruised to a 76-52 victory over South Tama (6-9).
"We didn't play as well as we can," STC coach Lonnie Hammond said. "You have to give credit for that to Wapsie Valley, because they will, especially in their home gym, come out and play hard. They simply say they are going to play harder than you. The key is matching the effort and the intensity.
South Tama sophomore Grant Koch (No. 11) avoids a Wapsie Valley defender as he scores a layup during the second half Tuesday night. Koch scored 11 points in the Trojans’ 76-52 loss to the Warriors.
"My biggest fear was letting (Wapsie Valley) get off to a good start," he said. "If you can keep that from happening, things will kind of level out. We played well in the first couple of minutes, but then it slowly started to get away from us."
South Tama quickly led at the beginning of the game with a basket from senior Clay Waterbury. The Warriors answered with two buckets, including the first of their nine three-pointers. Then senior Sam Kuhter and sophomore Grant Koch gave STC a 6-5 lead midway through the first quarter. That would be the final lead for STC in Tuesday's contest.
Five straight points during a 41-second stretch by Wapsie Valley was followed by a basket from STC senior Jose Fonseca. Then Wapsie Valley went on a 11-0 run, which included a trio of threes. Two of those three-pointers were made by Wapsie Valley senior Mitchell Boevers on back-to-back possession. The Warriors led 24-10 after the first quarter.
"Wapsie Valley is going to shoot threes," Hammond said. "You have to get out and close out on them. We could do a better job of that than we did tonight."
The Warriors increased their lead to 21 points midway through the second quarter. STC answered with a 7-0 run. Kuhter scored three points, while Koch and sophomore Ian Slagle each added two points to help STC close the lead to 14 points in a matter of one minute. The Warriors closed the 2:57 of the half with a 10-4 run with the help of three long-range shots, including two from senior Nick Gaul, who sank four three-pointers Tuesday night.
Back-to-back baskets from Slagle started the third quarter. Then Wapsie Valley scored seven of the next eight points as it built a 25-point lead. Fonseca scored six of his eight points to help STC close out the third quarter, but Wapsie maintained a 24-point lead heading into the final period.
"Wapsie Valley is very physical with their on-the-ball defense," Hammond said. "We knew that coming in. Wapsie Valley makes no illusions of who they are. We knew this is what it was going to be, but could we play through that tonight? In spurts, the answer was yes, but it wasn't enough spurts. You're not going to be successful against a team like this if you can't be consistent."
South Tama was unable to close the Wapsie Valley lead to under 20 points during the fourth quarter. Kuhter and Koch each scored four points and Waterbury added three points during the final eight minutes for the Trojans.
"I like how hard we came out and fought in the second half," Hammond said. "We could have come out and decided to get on the bus as soon as possible, but we didn't do that. We fought and we scrapped.
"We learned something tonight," he said. "We learned what it takes to go on the road against a solid team. That's what we're going to take out of this. As we get toward the end of the regular season and start talking about district play, we're going to go on the road to play teams. This is what it takes to go play hard."
Hammond added that the Trojans will try to bounce back from Tuesday's loss after a relaxing day of practice Wednesday and a tough practice Thursday.
"We can play better and that was my point in the locker room," Hammond said. "Tomorrow, we're going to have a fun day. Thursday, we're going to come back, get in the gym and work on getting better."
"The whole point we leave with tonight is we can play better, we have played better, we need to play better and that starts in practice," he added. "We come back Thursday and that's going to be our focus. We want to get back to the things we do well."
South Tama will host BCLUW at 7:30 p.m. Friday and travel to La Porte City to play Union on Saturday. STC will play at Gladbrook-Reinbeck and AGWSR next week.