GRINNELL - It didn't take long for the Grinnell Tigers to end the South Tama boys basketball season Monday night in the first round of the Class 3A District 11 semifinals.
The Tigers beat the Trojans for the second time in two weeks and the third time this season. The last two games have nearly been over by the end of the first quarter and even closer to being practically finished by halftime. Grinnell has used its quick start to propel itself to an easy victory.
"We knew they wanted to get a fast start," Hammond said. "Everybody does. That was a point of emphasis in practice all week."
South Tama sophomore Ian Slagle’s shot is blocked by Grinnell’s Nate Vosburg during Monday’s contest. The Tigers defense gave STC problems all night as they won 74-34.
It was nearly dj vu for the Trojans. On Feb. 5, the Trojans trailed 27-5 after the first quarter and 47-22 at halftime. They were losing 25-5 and then 43-13 on Monday night, thanks to a barrage of three-pointers and layups from Grinnell.
The Tigers began the game with a trio of three-pointers against the South Tama zone defense. In the first two minutes, STC had four possessions, which included three missed shots and one turnover. Meanwhile, the Tigers made the threes and another basket as they took a quick 11-0 lead. They built it to 15-0 two minutes later.
South Tama scored its first basket nearly four minutes into the game. Sophomore Ian Slagle came off of the bench and scored a bucket to get STC on the scoreboard. Sophomore Grant Koch made 1-of-2 free throws nearly four minutes later, ending a 9-0 Grinnell run. Senior Jose Fonseca finished the quarter with a basket, but STC trailed 25-5.
"Our goal coming in was to slow the game down," Hammond said. "We wanted to make them do things they didn't want to do. At the very beginning, they were a little confused because we came out in a little bit different defense. When they start hitting threes, you have to do things different. Otherwise, they are just going to stand out there and shoot you out of the gym."
Koch added a pair of free throws early in the second quarter to match a basket from Grinnell. Two minutes later, senior Sam Kuhter's basket ended a 6-0 Grinnell run. Koch scored again more than a minute later, which was STC's first of only three back-to-back buckets as the other two came in the fourth quarter. A basket from senior Daryl Bidwell was the last STC bucket of the half.
"You could look back and say if we change a possession here or there, does it change the outcome," Hammond asked? "Does it change the first quarter? I don't know. That's a tough one. I think we came in with the right intention and right ideas. We just didn't necessarily execute the things that we wanted to do."
Slagle made two baskets and Fonseca added a three-pointer as the Trojans kept the Grinnell lead at 31 points midway through the third quarter. However, Grinnell responded with an 8-0 spurt before taking its starters out of the game. Slagle made 1-of-2 foul shots and senior Brad Evans made a three before Grinnell finished the quarter with a 5-0 run to take a 40-point lead.
"They shot well," Hammond said. "They also rebounded well. That's the mark of a good team. They limited our offensive opportunities and capitalized on theirs."
South Tama scored 10 points in the final quarter of action Monday before the starters exited the floor for the final time in their STC uniforms. Senior Clay Waterbury sank a his only three-point attempt of the game with 5:01 remaining. Also scoring buckets for the Trojans were Bidwell, Kuhter and Fonseca. Kuhter also made a free throw. Grinnell finished the game with a 6-0 run during the final 3:34.
"Grinnell is a good basketball team and for us to accomplish goals we had coming in, we were going to have to do a lot of little things and execute them," Hammond said. "We didn't do them. It's easy to say it's this person's fault or that person's fault, but that's not the case at all. (Grinnell) is a good basketball team and we were a step late here or there. We lost to a better team tonight. There's not a great deal you can do or say at that point. That's just the reality."
Jose Fonseca and Ian Slagle each scored seven points to lead the Trojans, who lost to Grinnell 53-37 and 85-50 in the two previous meetings. Grant Koch and Sam Kuhter added five in the loss.
The Trojans finished the season 6-16 after beginning it 4-2. It was the final season for seniors Bidwell, Kaleb Davenport, Evans, Fonseca, Kuhter and Waterbury.
"We'll look back on this season and say 'Could it have been more,'" Hammond asked? "You can always do that. You don't like to end the season this way, but I thought, to our seniors' credit, they came out in the second half and they hustled. Knowing it was their last half of basketball, they played with a lot of pride and a lot of class.
"That's six kids that will be big shoes to fill next year," he said. "When we broke to start the second half, I told them, 'Seniors lead the way.' I feel like they did that. Unfortunately, it didn't show on the scoreboard, but the quality of young men they are, I think they did."