Mustang marksmen shoot down losing skid

LE GRAND – Three hundred and fifty-eight days.

Eleven months and 24 days.

No matter how you quantify it, the East Marshall boys’ basketball team waited a long time to finally find the right formula for victory.

The Mustangs knocked down a season-high nine 3-pointers Saturday en route to a 71-51 win over Grundy Center in an NICL West Division make-up game, ending East Marshall’s losing streak that had lasted nearly a year.

Ben Terrones lit up the Spartans for a season-high 22 points – all in the second half – and Zack Johnson had his season-best 16, helping East Marshall (1-12, 1-8) get its first win of the winter and the program’s first triumph since Jan. 25, 2013.

“It’s nice to see the kids get a win,” said Mustangs coach Cole Anderson, “because they deserve something. They’ve worked their butts off every day.”

It ends East Marshall’s 17-game losing streak dating back to an NICL West win over South Hardin last season. And it came thanks to the best shooting night Anderson could remember for his team.

“If we make shots like that, we play good enough defense that we can win some basketball games,” he said. “If that combination is there, we can play with anybody in our league.”

Coming off back-to-back wins, Grundy Center appeared to have righted its ship after sustaining six consecutive defeats. But the Spartans shot 18-for-55 from the field (32.7 percent) and struggled to defend against the shorter Mustangs in the paint.

All of Johnson’s 16 points came within 6 feet of the hoop, while Terrones made three layups, three 3-pointers and 7-of-8 free throws as the catalyst of the East Marshall attack. Nate DeBondt and Dru Boliver joined him on the dribble drive, and the Spartans’ collapsing defense could not recover fast enough to cover the Mustangs’ long-range shooters.

Austin Briney scored all of his 11 points in the first half, including three 3-pointers that helped East Marshall mount a 30-23 halftime lead. Ryan Puumala had a pair of triples, yet Grundy Center (5-9, 4-5) refused to go away in the third quarter.

The Spartans used a 9-2 run over the final 1:36 of the third to rally within two, 50-48, but that was as close as they would be again. Grundy Center got just three points in the final frame – all from Jordan Stoner – as the team’s brief two-game win streak stalled in disheartening fashion.

Spartan coach Rollie Ackerman was in and out of his team’s locker room in less than a minute after the game.

“There’s nothing to say,” he shrugged. “We didn’t play defense well enough, we didn’t rebound well enough, we didn’t shoot well enough. When that happens, you’re going to get beat.”

Stoner finished with a team-leading 15 points, Jack Stumberg made four 3-pointers on his way to 14 points, and Brady Hook had a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds. Sam Thompson netted two triples for eight points, too.

After falling behind 6-0 off the opening tip, Grundy Center utilized a 10-0 run to take a 12-10 lead. Stumberg scored 11 of his 14 in the first quarter alone. The Spartans led 15-13 entering the second quarter but got outscored 17-8 in the period and never held the advantage again.

East Marshall shot 10-for-14 from the free-throw line – all in the fourth quarter – and reserve guard Payton Steward added one last long-range bomb to seal the first win.

“It means a lot, and hopefully we can keep it going,” said DeBondt, who finished with eight points. “Our shooters were making their threes tonight. I think once our shots started falling, that really helped us on the defensive end.”

Grundy Center’s 51 points was the fewest allowed by East Marshall this season.

“East Marshall did it to us up here last year too,” said Ackerman.

Grundy Center goes out on the road Tuesday, trying to get a season sweep of South Tama. East Marshall visits South Hardin, trying to avenge their second-worst loss of the season.