Trojans hold off surging South Hardin

ELDORA – Tuesday’s North Iowa Cedar League West Division battle between South Hardin and West Marshall featured several changes in momentum and plenty of action at both ends of the court.

The host Tigers came out on fire, slowed down in the second quarter and then put on a late flurry of points against the Trojans, but in the end, the defending co-champions of the NICL West came out on top as Duncan Ferch had 21 points and nine rebounds in West Marshall’s 64-60 win at South Hardin High School.

“This was a big game for us because it is a conference game but also it’s our first game for district seeding,” West Marshall coach Paul deNeui said. “We were able to fight through some tough situations tonight playing on the road but we managed to pull it out.”

Reggie Gradwell added 16 points and nine rebounds in the win and the Trojans improved to 4-1 on the season and 2-0 in conference play.

The Tigers, on the other hand, began their season with the two teams which shared the conference title last year and have no wins to show for it.

“The kids are working their tails off,” said Adam Weig. “We don’t want to peak now anyway. It is tough that we started out with those two games and it’s tough telling the guys to stay with me. They are though and they’ll just keep getting better.”

The Tigers got three quick 3-pointers from Sam Shindelar in the game’s first 2:30 and Eric Mulder turned two steals into layups to give South Hardin a 13-5 advantage.

West Marshall though stayed the course and used precision passing and a strong inside-out game to stay in the match early.

The Trojans scored the quarter’s final seven points to pull within 22-21 after the first period and then carried the momentum into the second quarter when they got nine straight points to go up seven midway through the period.

The 16-1 run in all made it 30-23 and the Trojans carried a 36-31 lead into halftime. The 15-9 advantage in the second quarter for West Marshall ended up being the difference.

“We don’t play a lot of guys. We got tired and came out slow in the second quarter and stopped playing defense,” said Weig. “We gave up too many easy buckets. We won seven games last year, and we need to figure out how to win. Hopefully we can do that soon.”

The Tigers stayed within five until Ferch scored on consecutive possessions for the Trojans and pushed the lead to nine. Gradwell’s 3 a few minutes later kept it at an eight-point lead but the Tigers were down just six heading to the fourth quarter.

“We did a good job of working together tonight,” said deNeui. “They executed their offense well and we struggled to stop them. Give South Hardin credit, they gave us trouble on both ends.”

The final eight minutes is where things got interesting.

The only point for West Marshall in the first 4:30 was a Trenton Keislar free throw. South Hardin, on the other hand, got a pair of layups from Shindelar and a pair of buckets inside from Glendon Rusch and Andrew Wiechmann and Mulder’s two free throws put the Tigers up 55-52 with 2:45 to play.

A 3-point play from Keislar and a big 3-pointer from Ferch eventually pushed the Trojans back in front and West Marshall connected on seven free throws in the final 2 minutes to seal the win.

“We knew the key to the game in the fourth quarter was getting some stops and making our free throws,” deNeui said. “We missed some in the middle of the game but were able to make some late when the game was on the line.”

West Marshall ended up 15-of-22 from the line and made them when it mattered most down the stretch. Ferch was 8-for-9 in the win.

Mulder scored 20 points for South Hardin in the loss, while Shindelar added 15 points and Wiechmann scored 10. The Tigers made just half of their 10 free throw attempts on the night.

The Tigers will head to East Marshall on Friday, while West Marshall travels to Ackley to face AGWSR.