Cougars come to life in second half

TAMA – The Cougars’ second unit set an example.

In the second half, its starting five took over.

Breaking open a one-point halftime lead with a 14-0 run to start the third quarter, the AGWSR boys’ basketball team raced away to a 63-43 victory over South Tama in an NICL West Division tilt Friday.

Frustrated with the effort of his starters midway through the second quarter, AGWSR coach Russ Banzhaf went to his bench for an energy boost.

“I was sick and tired of watching our first group in the second quarter,” said Banzhaf.

“Our first unit did not play with the intensity we wanted in the first half. I have to give credit to our second five.”

The Cougar subs answered an 8-0 run from the Trojans with a 8-2 flurry to close the half, giving AGWSR a 24-23 edge at intermission and more importantly – a shot in the arm.

“The credit goes to them. They led tonight as far as energy is concerned,” said Banzhaf.

“In the second half the first group came out and did their job on the defensive end.”

The Cougars’ higher defensive intensity coincided with a cold streak for the Trojans, which helped the visitors pull away outscoring South Tama 21-7 in the third to lead 45-30 entering the final frame.

“We started to settle for jump shots,” said South Tama coach Lonnie Hammond, whose squad found plenty of success in the paint in the first 16 minutes.

“We stopped being aggressive and then things just started to snowball. You give them credit, they’re a solid team.”

Josh Bagley followed a 21-point performance Thursday with a game-high 20 points to lead AGWSR. The senior capped the Cougars’ 14-0 blitz – with a jumper to stretch the lead to 38-23 midway through the third.

Neither team led by more than four in the first half as the Cougars (7-3, 5-2) closed the opening frame with three straight buckets to hold a 10-8 advantage. South Tama’s Jose Fonseca hit a jumper to punctuate an 8-0 flourish for the Trojans (4-5, 4-3) giving them a 20-16 lead before the Cougars’ second unit rose to the occasion.

“We can go 10 deep on most nights and (have it) not make a difference,” said Banzhaf.

Austin Heitland, who scored six points and added a huge block during the Cougars’ run, tallied 11 points, while Braden Bonewitz had 10. Trevor Bakker had eight points, while Derek Schipper chipped in eight off the bench and Zach Lindaman also added seven.

Fonseca led the Trojans with 14 points, three steals and five rebounds, while Kaleb Davenport added nine points and Clay Waterbury tallied seven points.

Even when the Trojans started finding quality looks, they couldn’t cash in.

“We got to a point where we started getting the good shots but the lid went on the basket and they didn’t go in,” said Hammond.

“The most you can do is take a good shot and at that point you’re at the mercy of the rim gods.”

AGWSR snapped a two-game slide, while extending the Trojans’ skid to three. Both squads entered on two-game slides tied for third in the conference.

Both teams return to action Tuesday as the Cougars host BCLUW, while the Trojans face Grundy Center on the road.