STC girls hoops continue rebuild

Kayla Heck (12) and Adriana Cervantes trap Tigers guard Ivey Schmidt as she makes her way up the court. Schmidt was scoring leader on the night Monday, totaling 20 points in the blowout effort over South Tama. -- Photo by Darvin Graham

A new season brings new opportunity for the South Tama County girls basketball program.

Only a few years removed from a state tournament qualification (2018), the Trojans have since been working to rebuild both their roster and their program.

“We’ve been encouraged to see the numbers that have come out for preseason practices,” Head Coach Dina Keahna said. “If we can translate that into offseason workouts we can translate it into gains on the court.”

The team’s top returner is senior forward Adriana Cervantes who was a key rebounder and the second scoring option last season behind Carissa Musgrave. Cervantes will have a challenge ahead of her as an undersized forward at 5-9, though she’s proven energetic and tough during her career at South Tama.

Other returners include senior guards Lauren Veit and Kailee Meek who look to see significant minutes in the backcourt this season.

Senior Lauren Veit splits through Grinnell defenders on her way to the hoop Monday night. Veit is among a group of five seniors on the roster including Adriana Cervantes, Kailee Meek, Neena Lasley and Bre Riha. -- Photo by Darvin Graham

Players likely to see minutes this season without as much varsity experience include Takia Rosenberger, Kayla Heck, Zeara Kapayou, Emma Harwick and Arro Lyon.

New and familiar faces are also on the varsity coaching staff this year for South Tama.

Keahna was named the head varsity coach during the offseason, replacing Todd Dale who had coached the team since 2016.

Keahna, a school counselor at South Tama County High School, was previously an assistant coach with the girls and boys programs.

Keahna brings experience as a head coach having spent four seasons as the Meskwaki Warriors boys varsity basketball coach.

For the 2021-22 season former South Tama girls basketball alum Dina Keahna has stepped in as the head coach of her former team. Keahna brings coaching experience from the boys and girls varsity level with South Tama and the Meskwaki Settlement School. This year she’ll be joined on the sideline by assistant Marsha Keahna who is a former head coach of the program herself. -- Tama News Herald archive image from 1981

She is also notably a South Tama County alum and former Trojan basketball player.

“After playing here so many years ago, we tend to talk about the good old days or the glory days,” Keahna said. “That’s the feeling I have stepping into this position.”

Keahna said she has vivid memories of playing to packed crowds at the Roundhouse during her high school career when spectators were seated on all sides of the gym.

She hopes the South Tama basketball programs can find a way to build community in the way teams of the past have done.

Former Trojans head coach Marsha Keahna also returns to the sideline this year, filling in as assistant coach for the varsity team.

South Tama senior Kailee Meek defends the perimeter during the Trojans' home opener against Grinnell on Nov. 29. -- Photo by Darvin Graham

In their season opener on Nov. 29 against 10th-ranked Grinnell, the Trojans were outmatched and unable to compete against a team that was taller, faster and more experienced in every facet of the game.

The Tigers came away with a 95-11 victory, a trend that has been worsening over recent years. During the prior meeting of the two teams in 2019, the outcome was similar with Grinnell winning 97-20.

The last time the two teams played a close contest was in 2014 and over the past six years the average margin of defeat for the South Tama girls against Grinnell is just over 47 points.

Three Grinnell players finished in double-digits Monday evening, led by Ivey Schmidt who had 25 points.

The Trojans meanwhile did their best to control the ball and disrupt what Grinnell was trying to accomplish on offense.

South Tama’s Zeara Kapayou drives to the hoop against Grinnell’s Meredith McKnight during the Trojans’ home opener on Nov. 30. -- Photo by Darvin Graham

South Tama tallied four field goals and six free throw shots. No player had more than one basket or two free throws.

“We tell our girls that what we need to focus on is our growth and to do what we can to not compare ourselves to anybody else,” Keahna said. “The WaMaC is a competitive conference overall and each night is going to be tough. Over time I’m hoping that we can gain more confidence in ourselves and in our game.”

Looking through the 2021-22 schedule, South Tama has few opportunities to compete outside the WaMaC Conference.

On paper the most competitive matchups appear to be against Saydel and last year’s conference bottom feeders Independence, Mount Vernon and West Delaware.

South Tama took losses to each of those teams (except for West Delaware who they did not play) last year but by a more competitive average point margin of 13.

Takia Rosenberger defends the perimeter against Grinnell’s Lauren Pease Monday night at the Roundhouse. Rosenberger is the younger sister of Tylese Rosenberger who is playing at the college level for the MCC Tigers this fall. -- Photo by Darvin Graham

One date to circle on the calendar will be a boy/girl varsity doubleheader between South Tama and the Meskwaki Warriors.

The two schools have rarely met on the basketball court and should provide an energetic atmosphere from community members throughout the region.

The games will take place on Monday, January 17 at the STC Roundhouse.

South Tama was back in action Tuesday evening against Solon, taking another lopsided loss 89-11.

Friday night will begin a three-game road stint with games at Beckman, Mount Vernon and Center Point-Urbana.

Heading into the holiday break the Trojans will host two home games on Dec. 17 against Maquoketa and on Dec. 20 against Saydel before closing the 2021 calendar year on the road to Vinton-Shellsburg on Dec. 21.