One last NICL West title for South Tama
TAMA – The Trojans had to wait four more days for the chance to claim a conference title outright.
They barely needed four minutes to show they weren’t leaving the floor without one Monday.
Scoring the first 11 points of the game and jumping out to a 17-3 lead in the opening quarter, the Trojans cruised to a 55-41 victory over South Hardin, clinching sole possession of the North Iowa Cedar League West Division crown.
Tieranny Keahna tallied 19 points and Madie Bacon added 17 as South Tama County (14-4, 12-1) wrapped up its final season in the NICL on top and earned its third title in four seasons after also topping the West Division in 2011-12, one year after winning the Little Hawkeye Conference.
“We knew what we had to do, we had to shut down Kayla (Prosser),” said STC coach Marsha Keahna, whose squad limited the Tiger senior to 11 points – less than half her output in Eldora last Thursday.
“They worked hard and did everything we asked them to do that first quarter. They rebounded well, worked the ball around, had good passes, and their intensity level was higher than I’ve seen all year.”
The Trojans relentlessly attacked inside, probing the Tiger defense until the perfect moment with two quick buckets by Keahna and another by Bacon to start things off. Hailee Weiss’s three-point play pushed the margin to 11-0 at the 2:31 mark, before Dani Stubbs answered South Hardin’s first bucket with two of her own. Paige Van Dyk added a dagger at the buzzer burying a 3 from the corner to put the Tigers in a 14-point hole.
It was a complete 180 from the previous matchup where the Tigers (15-5, 10-4) opened a 16-point advantage on the Trojans en route to a 39-36 win.
“The roles just flip-flopped,” South Hardin coach Matt Thompson said. “We didn’t come out with intensity and hustle. They were beating us up the court, playing harder on defense and rebounding better.
“We had four key points on the board that we talked to them about before the game and we didn’t really do any of those four in the first half. When you get outhustled, don’t identify people, don’t rebound, and don’t do our offensive things that we need to do – it’s pretty tough to do anything.”
South Tama continued to cash in on lazy passes and indecisiveness by the Tigers in the second quarter for several transition buckets to lead 26-10 at the break.
The Trojans stretched the gap to 37-15 on Bacon’s free throw late in the third before Lydia Rose, Kassidy Bunger and Prosser revived the Tigers with eight quick points. Keahna added a putback in the final seconds before Claire Damon drilled a trey at the horn to trim the deficit to 39-26. Damon hit four 3s in the game to pace the Tigers with 12 points and Sarah Boomgarden had nine.
The Tigers ratcheted up their defensive pressure in the fourth to string together seven points with a pair of layups by Prosser bookending a bucket from Boomgarden. The surge closed the gap to 42-33 with 4:26 left but South Tama shut the door with three consecutive hoops by Keahna, and four straight free throws from Bacon later iced the win.
Keahna altered some of her team’s strategy, switching from a 2-3 zone to a 3-2, while making sure her players identified Prosser on every shot attempt to limit the second-chance points the senior got. Though the biggest difference-maker for the Trojans came between the ears.
“I knew we were the better team, we just mentally weren’t in that game last week,” Coach Keahna said. “There were a lot of things going on in our community and everyone was kind of feeling it. We challenged them to come out and prove that we are South Tama and we can do it – and they did.
“They wanted it really bad. It was adrenaline and emotion that first quarter, I’m so proud of them.”
Both teams return to action tonight with Trojans hosting BCLUW, while the Tigers entertain North Tama.
The Trojans assured themselves at least a share of the NICL West Division crown with a 59-53 victory over BCLUW Friday. … South Tama will rejoin the WaMaC Conference this fall. The Trojans were a member of the WaMaC until they joined the Little Hawkeye Conference in 2006 before moving to the NICL in 2011.