Redhawks follow free-throw line to win
TRAER – Love it or hate it, officials are giving far less leniency to physical defensive play this season.
Fortunately for Redhawk coach Brandon Clubb, his team is well versed in the 1-3-1 zone and more than capable of connecting at the charity stripe.
Burying all 20 of its attempts from the free-throw line in the second half, the North Tama boys’ basketball team rallied for a 76-65 non-conference victory over Belle Plaine in the season opener for both teams Monday.
Paul Kaufmann poured in a career-best 34 points and converted all 14 attempts from the line to help the Redhawks outscore the Plainsmen 27-11 in the fourth quarter.
“It’s what we expected,” said Clubb of the tighter whistle on defense. “I was glad they called it the way they did. We’ve been practicing that way and working on things to do if a game is called that way.”
North Tama (1-0) finished 24-of-28 from the line, while Belle Plaine made eight of its 15 attempts.
The Plainsmen used a 10-2 run late in the second quarter to lead 41-34 at the break and stretched the lead as high as 12 with 1:56 to play in the third before the Redhawks rallied.
Taylor Dinsdale’s transition trey and a buzzer beater by Dylan Clausen closed the deficit to 54-49 entering the fourth. Kaufmann continued North Tama’s 18-2 flurry with his team’s next 11 points as his putback in transition gave the home team the lead for good at 58-56.
Consecutive layups from Clausen and Dinsdale followed by four free throws pushed the margin to 68-58 with 2:49 remaining as the Plainsmen (0-1) never came closer than eight the rest of the way.
Dinsdale added 19 points for North Tama, while Clausen and Logan Zobel each added eight. Ben Panfil chipped in seven as North Tama outscored Belle Plaine 24-8 at the free-throw line.
“That’s pretty hard to overcome,” said Belle Plaine coach Justin Northrop of the free throw discrepancy. “It’s tough when you sometimes can’t even touch a guy and they’re calling a foul. The guys will have to adjust to that. This was a good test for us right away.”
North Tama attempted just eight free throws in the first half before going to the basket more aggressively after the break. The Redhawks also found success with their 1-3-1 zone to limit Belle Plaine’s looks inside.
“It helped us cover the passes in the paint a little better than our man to man defense,” said Kaufmann of the switch to the 1-3-1 zone. “The talk coach gave us at halftime really pumped us up and we came back in the second half and did the things we needed to do – getting stops on defense and scoring on offense.”
Kaufmann averaged 4.8 points per game a year ago but will take on a much larger role this season after the Redhawks graduated 10 seniors – and 92 percent of its scoring – from last year’s state tournament team.
“He’s got to be that leader on both ends of the floor and he was tonight,” said Clubb of the 6-foot-4 junior. “In general we’re real inexperienced and you could tell in the first half. We settled down at halftime, but he was kind of our backbone and helped us get through that.”
Justin Jacobi led the Plainsmen with 19 points and Jacob Ehlen contributed 17 before fouling out.
The Redhawks open Iowa Star Conference play tonight, facing Colo-NESCO on the road before hosting Don Bosco on Friday.
The Redhawks are coming off a school-best 26-3 mark and the program’s first state tournament appearance.