Tigers deny STC celebration

ELDORA – A change of pace helped the Tigers cruise to a sizable second-half lead, though South Hardin may have gotten a little too comfortable with its advantage.

Fortunately for the Tigers, their defense was there to pick up the slack.

Opening up a 16-point cushion early in the third quarter, the South Hardin girls’ basketball team fought off a furious fourth-quarter rally from South Tama County to hang on for a 39-36 victory Thursday.

Kayla Prosser poured in 20 of her 23 points in the middle two frames as the Tigers (14-4, 9-3) handed the Trojans their first loss in the North Iowa Cedar League West Division and prevented STC from clinching the conference crown outright.

The Trojans (12-4, 10-1) scored 12 straight in the final stanza as Tieranny Keahna’s basket inside trimmed the Tigers’ lead to 38-36 with 1:04 to play. The Tigers missed the front end of two 1-and-1 opportunities, though Sarah Boomgarden stole an entry pass for Keahna and made 1-of-2 at the line before the Trojans turned it over on their final possession.

South Hardin opened the contest with the fast-tempo approach its used throughout the season but after seeing an 9-1 lead trimmed to two, the Tigers switched things up with a more deliberate approach in the second.

“Tonight we told the girls, ‘If we waste 40 seconds and they waste 40 seconds each possession, it’s going to limit the number of possessions,” Tigers coach Matt Thompson said. “We just had to take advantage so that we can capitalize on the least amount of possessions but still score some points.”

Leading 14-10 midway through the second, South Hardin claimed control with a 17-5 flurry spanning the half as Prosser sparked it with a 3-point play before her back-to-back triples from the top of the key increased the margin to 31-15 with 6 minutes to play in the third.

South Hardin still wanted to push the ball when it had the chance but didn’t want to force the issue if an advantage wasn’t there.

“We wanted to get out and run because our transition from our defense to offense is always going to be 5-on-4 when they’ve got (Keahna) in the game,” Thompson said. “Defense is what won the game for us. (Keahna) didn’t get very many touches and she didn’t get very many offensive putbacks – and that’s a big part of her game.”

The Trojans trailed 37-22 late in the third before coming alive in the final 8 minutes. While the Tigers’ methodical attack helped them take command in the middle two frames, the plan nearly unraveled late as an aggressive STC defense forced several turnovers and Keahna drilled a wide-open 3 to close the deficit to 37-34. Prosser made 1-of-2 at the line before Keahna added another bucket to set up the frantic final minute.

“We weren’t here to play the first three quarters, I don’t know where we were,” STC coach Marsha Keahna said. “Our heads weren’t in the game and they finally fired up in the fourth quarter and played South Tama ballIf we just play four quarters of ball like we did when they come to our house next week, then we’ll be in good shape.”

Boomgarden added 11 points for the Tigers, while South Hardin – playing without Kassidy Bunger and Kayla Anderson due to illness – had no other player score more than three. Prosser added 10 rebounds, Boomgarden dished out four assists and Lydia Rose had five steals.

Keahna paced the Trojans with 15 points, Maddie Bacon tallied 8 and Paige Van Dyk 5 for South Tama, which lost its second game in a row for the first time all season after winning 11 straight.

The Trojans travel to BCLUW tonight and host South Hardin Monday. The Tigers hit the road to face AGWSR Friday and STC closes out its conference schedule by hosting BCLUW Tuesday.

Notebook

Thursday’s game had been previously postponed three times. South Hardin was without Kassidy Bunger, a starter, and Kayla Anderson, who were both out with an illness.