TAMA - The John Carrier era of South Tama boys basketball started with his team standing together at center court after its season opener, singing the school fight song with smiles on everyone's faces.
It was a jovial scene the likes of which Carrier hopes becomes a mainstay at STC, nevermind the 22-point loss in the new head coach's Trojan debut.
Class 2A state runner-up Pella Christian counteracted South Tama's aggressive play by taking advantage of open spaces and fast breaks, outscoring the upstart Trojans 77-55 in both teams' season opener Tuesday night.
T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE
Pella Christian point guard Sam Tvedt, left, wins the battle for a loose ball with South Tama’s Blake Nelson, center, and Chalen Shuckahosee during the second half Tuesday in Tama. View additional photos and order prints online at timesrepublican.com, click on CU.
The Little Hawkeye Conference championship a year ago was shared by Norwalk, the eventual Class 3A state runner-up, and an entirely different Pella Christian starting lineup. The Eagles graduated all five starters from last year's state squad, but showed no signs of settling for anything shy of a return to Wells Fargo Arena.
Pella Christian scored at least 21 points in the first three periods on Tuesday night, pulling away from a fiery start by South Tama in Carrier's first game at the helm of the Trojans.
"We could have slowed it down and lost by eight or ten, but we had fun and we competed and we played hard. It didn't work tonight, but I guarantee at some point it's going to work," Carrier said. "We're creating a culture of how we're going to play. Tonight it didn't work but we've got 20 more games.
"This is a pumped up group, and I'll take that trade any day. You've got to do something that gives us a chance and makes it interesting."
South Tama's run-and-gun offense likens itself, Carrier says, to nearby Grinnell College's style of play. Senior guard Chalen Shuckahosee flourished in his second shift on the court, cashing in four first-half 3-pointers en route to a career-high 25 points.
"Man, was he on fire," Carrier said.
But while Shuckahosee was lighting it up from long range, Pella Christian was scoring equally at will on the other end of the court. The Eagles seemed to take advantage of all 24 South Tama turnovers, converting more than a handful of fast-break opportunities for a 45-27 halftime lead.
Shuckahosee scored the last five points of the first quarter to keep South Tama within 23-19, and his third of five trifectas made it 25-22 in the first minute of the second period.
Pella Christian closed the half on a 20-5 run to take control for good. Shuckahosee added STC's first eight points of the second half to keep the Trojans within 12, 47-35, but the Eagles tore off a 19-2 run over the last 6 minutes of the period to push their lead to 29.
"I would have liked to see us score in the 70s or 80s," Carrier said. "We had a lot of open shots. For us to play that fast offensively and defensively, we're going to have to push, push, push, and wear the other team out. I hope so anyway."
Kyle Nikkel, who came off the bench to play in 27 of the Eagles' 28 games a year ago, led PC with 22 points. Jon Holwerda added 18 points, Curtis Rozenboom had 13, and Chase Carlson and Alex Branderhorst had 10 apiece.
Brandon Horbach aided in South Tama's scoring, finishing with 12 points, and Dustin Dolash chipped in eight in the season-opening loss.
The Trojans return to action on the road Friday night at Knoxville in LHC play.