Spartans shoot down STC
TAMA — Though the South Tama County basketball teams left the NICL West Division four years ago for the WaMaC Conference, they’ve kept some of those old rivalries alive, and on Thursday the Trojans welcomed in Grundy Center for another installment in their series.
In the first two seasons after leaving the NICL, South Tama took down the Spartans, handing Grundy Center only one of its two losses in the 2015-16 season, but last year the Spartans narrowly edged out the Trojans for a 42-41 victory.
The game wouldn’t be as dramatic this time around, as Class 2A No. 8 Grundy Center (17-1) took home a 62-52 win from Tama, but what this game did feature was a big-time showing from two of the best players in the area.
Spartans sophomore Hailey Wallis finished with a season-high 26 points to lead all scorers, but Trojans senior Jessica Musgrave wasn’t far behind, finishing with 25 to lead South Tama (11-8).
Wallis said playing against someone the talent of Musgrave tends to bring out the best in her game.
“She is a really great player, our main objective was to stop her, don’t let number 11 beat us,” Wallis said. “I think we did a pretty good job of that, obviously when she’s that good of a player you can’t stop her completely but we definitely slowed her down and that was the main goal.”
Musgrave and Wallis have quite a bit of familiarity with each other. Not only have they played against one another for the last three years, they actually played together on the same AAU team during the summer, and Musgrave said she likes going against her club teammates because she knows what makes them tick.
“Knowing her strengths and my strengths, I love playing against AAU players and we can just play off each other and play well,” Musgrave said.
It was clear from the opening tip that the two girls were in for a big night, as Wallis hit four shots from behind the 3-point line in the first quarter to score 12 of her team’s 23 in the first eight minutes, and Musgrave kept pace with nine of her team’s 17 in the first quarter.
Spartans head coach Matt Lindeman said, given the history of games between these two teams, he knew his team was in for a fight, but Wallis starting hot like she did was a great boost.
“We knew it would be a battle, last year we trailed them for most of the game but we got off to a good start right away,” Lindeman said. “Hailey hit some big shots right away, she got to five threes really quick and that got us going.”
In the second quarter, it was Musgrave who got going quickly, as she ran out to a couple of easy baskets on her way to finishing with eight in the quarter, but though Wallis only scored five her team stepped in a little more, with Brooke Flater netting a couple baskets and Cora Saak hitting some free throws to give Grundy Center a 34-26 lead.
After halftime, the Spartans and Trojans would trade blows in the third quarter, though it was clear that both teams were doing what they could to stop the other’s potent scorer.
Lindeman said his girls knew they had to do whatever they could to force someone else from the Trojans to score.
“That was our talk at half, that we had to force someone else on their team to make shots,” he said. “We had to force Musgrave, who is so good at creating and getting to the basket, we had to get her stopped somehow and make her give it up. And for the most we did that, at least down the stretch.”
Grundy Center got what they wished, though it almost backfired in the fourth quarter. With the defense focused on Musgrave, STC junior Jaelin Berger was left open behind the line, where she hit two 3-pointers on her way to eight points in the final quarter, and all eight kept the Trojans within striking distance.
Trojans head coach Todd Dale said, while his girls couldn’t quite pull out the victory, he loved the way they stayed in the game.
“That’s what we have to do, you know Grundy Center is a really good team. They were 16-1 coming in for a reason and we knew that coming in,” Dale said. “We knew we had to handle their press, we felt like we did a good job with that, but we just didn’t get some of our shots to fall and when shots don’t fall it hurts. But I thought the girls did a really good job tonight and worked on some things that we need to work on for down the road and that’s what it’s about.”
Both teams learned some valuable lessons from this game, and both will likely come out stronger now that they set their eyes on the postseason.
The Spartans have had a tough stretch of games of late, after winning over West Marshall and AGWSR last week to secure at least a share of the NICL West title and traveling to Tama on Thursday night, but Lindeman said the way they have played in those games shows him his girls are ready for the next challenge.
“We are starting to play like I thought we could on both ends. Defensively I think we’ve been good all year, but offensively our game has come around,” Lindeman said. “We scored 62 points tonight so that’s what we envisioned us looking like, and against a very good team. That’s what we have to be able to do, we’ve got to do that and our tough schedule to end the year is supposed to help us into the postseason, so hopefully it does.”
Both teams have games on the docket tonight, as Grundy Center plays its final NICL West game at South Hardin, starting at 6:15 p.m. in Eldora, and South Tama County hosts 4A No. 1 Marion for a WaMaC West battle, starting at 7:30 p.m. in Tama.
Grundy Center 62,
South Tama County 52
GRUNDY CENTER (17-1) — Hailey Wallis 9 2-2 26, Madison McMartin 1 1-2 4, Sydney Mathews 0 2-2 2, Kylie Willis 3 3-4 9, Brooke Flater 4 2-3 10, Reegan Zinkula 1 4-5 7, Sarah Lindeman 0 0-0 0, Cora Saak 1 2-3 4. TOTALS 18 18-23 62.
SOUTH TAMA (11-8) — Sadie Smith 1 2-2 4, Jaelin Berger 3 0-0 8, Jessica Musgrave 8 9-9 25, Tylese Rosenberger 0 0-0 0, Madison Rohach 2 1-2 7, Carissa Musgrave 2 0-0 5, Taylor Ray 1 0-0 3. TOTALS 17 12-13 52.
GRUNDY C. 23 11 14 14 — 62
S. TAMA 17 9 13 13 — 52
3-Point Goals–GC 8 (Wallis 6, Zinkula, McMartin), STC 6 (Berger 2, Rohach 2, C. Musgrave, Ray). Total Fouls–GC 14, STC 18. Fouled Out–none.