STC charging into another tough WaMaC season

The South Tama boys basketball team played their home opener against rival Grinnell on Nov. 29. The Tigers bested the Trojans for the third straight year, 81-40. Pictured on defense for the Trojans are Kendall Balderas (20), Miles Zmolek (32), Tommy Tyynismaa (10), Pedro Nunez (5) and Lance Davenport (3). -- Photo by Darvin Graham

The road hasn’t been easy for the South Tama County Trojans the past few years. Small, inexperienced rosters have put the team at a disadvantage such that their record over the past three seasons is a startling 1-60.

But the players and coaches can’t afford to dwell on that number or much of what’s happened in the past.

“Heart, effort and energy are not lacking from these young individuals,” Head Coach Dustin Peska said. “They’ve played hard through our first two games and if they continue that, they’ll continue to improve throughout the year.”

South Tama held their season opener at the Roundhouse on Monday, Nov. 29 against rival Grinnell.

The Trojans ran hard at Grinnell in the opening quarter, pressing once the ball hit half court forcing several turnovers.

Guard Tommy Tyynismaa turns on the afterburners as he accelerates past Grinnell’s Aaron Campell during the Trojans’ opener on Nov. 29. Tyynismaa paced the Trojans with 16 points and comes in as the top returning scorer for the team as a sophomore. -- Photo by Darvin Graham

However, South Tama was unable to capitalize on the offensive end and were still outscored in the first quarter 13-7.

The second quarter progressed in a similar manner with Grinnell in control but not fully able to pull away from South Tama.

Coming out of the halftime break, defense gave way to offense and the Tigers were off to the races.

In the second half Grinnell outscored South Tama by 27 points and went on to an 81-40 victory.

The Trojans leading scorer Monday was Tyynismaa who scored 16 points in an all-around performance, hitting two-point field goals, three-pointers and free throws.

Kendall Balderas (20) pulls up for a jumper over the outstretched arm of Braden Blackford (24). Balderas scored six points and brought down three rebounds in the Trojans’ losing effort Monday night. -- Photo by Darvin Graham

Davenport and Balderas were next in scoring behind Tyynismaa with nine and six points respectively.

Leading rebounders for the Trojans were Nunez and Trusten Rosenberger who each had five.

The Tigers meanwhile were led by Calvin Jaworski who scored 20 points. Starting center Aaron Campbell also had a good night scoring 10 points while bringing down 22 rebounds.

South Tama hit the road the following night to take on Solon.

The Spartans came away with a dominant 69-24 victory over South Tama.

Cade Rosenberger takes off on a transition fast break past Grinnell’s Dylan McIlrath. Rosenberger will join a deep guard rotation that includes experienced seniors Kendall Balderas and Lance Davenport, classmate Tommy Tyynismaa and senior transfer Osceola Tyon. -- Photo by Darvin Graham

Team outlook

The Trojans lost their top two scorers from last season. Eli Keahna graduated last spring and is now playing at the college level with Bacone College. Behind Keahna, forward Gavin Bridgewater was the second leading scorer and rebounder for the team and added some additional size underneath the hoop.

This season Bridgewater has pivoted to wrestling leaving the Trojans with inexperienced forwards in the front court.

In the backcourt, South Tama returns with much more experience in seniors Kendall Balderas and Lance Davenport. Both have played significant varsity minutes over the past two years and have become comfortable handling the ball and looking to score.

Senior Trusten Rosenberger has also been with the program since his freshman year and will be looked toward for his speed and intensity on defense.

State track and cross country athlete Tommy Tyynismaa will also be a big part of the Trojans game plan this season.

Tyynismaa was the third leading scorer on the team last year as a freshman and his athleticism and conditioning will be invaluable in anchoring the shooting guard or small forward position throughout an entire game.

Senior guard Osceola Tyon rejoined the South Tama roster after attending the Meskwaki Settlement School for the 2020-21 school year. He will be eligible to compete with the team in January once the 90-day transfer requirement has been met.

In his junior year Tyon was an offensive force for the Warriors, averaging 16.6 ppg while helping his team to the 1A substate championships.

Tyon is also the younger brother of 2018 South Tama alum Sterling Tyon who was a first-team All-Conference player during his senior season when the Trojans made a run to the 3A substate championship game.

Other guards looking to see significant playing time this year are senior Pedro Nunez and sophomore Cade Rosenberger.

The WaMaC

Though South Tama doesn’t project to compete beyond the bottom tier of the WaMaC Conference, the overall picture of the conference in the boys landscape is cloudy.

None of the WaMaC West schools advanced past the first round of the substate playoffs last season and only Clear Creek-Amana ended with a winning record.

The balance of talent clearly leans toward the eastern division with schools like Solon and Mount Vernon each competing in substate championships last season and Beckman Catholic qualifying for the 2A state tournament.

On paper the Trojans best opportunities for a win or at least competitive games may come against two conference contests against Benton Community and non-conference matchups against Saydel and Meskwaki.

South Tama returns home Friday to take on Beckman Catholic and will host Mount Vernon next Tuesday.

Looking ahead through the month of December, the boys team will play additional home games on Dec. 14 (vs. CP-U), Dec. 20 (vs. Saydel) and Dec. 21 (vs. Vinton-Shellsburg).

One new feature fans will notice immediately upon entering the Roundhouse is the newly installed digital scoreboard that replaced the four-sided skybox that was hung from the center of the gym ceiling.

The new digital board was funded by the South Tama Activity Boosters and is getting its first use this season.