KEOTA — Carson Sprouse averages over 16 points a game for Keota, but Thursday he didn’t score in the first quarter, or the second quarter or even the third quarter. Yet his team was ahead by double digits most of those minutes. Sprouse didn’t score in the first 4 minutes of the fourth quarter. But when North Mahaska went on an 18-2 run over the last minute of the third quarter and the first half of the fourth, Sprouse scored. He had 11 points in the final minutes to help Keota win its district game against the War Hawks, 64-51.
“I just decided to step back and let the other guys step up and they sure did,” Sprouse said. “That’s what’s great about this team. Nobody needs to do all the scoring because anyone of us can.”
Luke Hammen had 11 points in Keota’s first half and 10 in the second. Wyatt Sieren had six in the first half and finished with 10. In the first half, Sam Sieren hit two threes and Bryce Greiner scored his five. Brady Duwa scored 11. Braden Steel and Nash Smith each had 14 for North Mahaska.
The two South Iowa Cedar League teams had played a previous game at New Sharon that went 51-50 for the Eagles. Keota was determined not to let Thursday’s boys basketball game be a repeat.
“That was the funnest game of basketball ever,” Hammen said. “The crowd was so loud and they are such good competitors. The game was up and down. Even if we lost, it was fun, it just would not have been a happy ending.”
The ending was fun because of the start. The Eagles had a goal to clamp down on defense. Goal achieved.
“Our defensive intensity was off the charts,” Hammen said of the first quarter that ended 16-7 in the Eagles favor. “We forced turnovers, we ran, we hit open shots, we hit threes, everything with clicking.”
Duwa, the tallest Eagle, was running the point and taking advantage of mismatches. “With the scorers we have, it give me a matchup of the other team’s bigger, slower guy and it’s my advantage because I am able to use my quickness, get to the basket and that eventually opens it up for other guys, especially in the corners.”
“Whenever you make shots, it’s easier to play defense and your defense is better,” Keota head coach Dan Stout said. “We knew they would end up scoring because they got too much talent to hold down.”
Respect of that talent led to a stall to end the last 2:31 of the first half, but a slowdown in the second half had dire consequences.
“We were trying to chew the clock and not playing our game and that made us give up turnovers,” Hammen said. “It’s smart to run out the clock but at the same time, we have to stay true to ourselves and play our own game.”
The Eagles like to attack and they had stopped doing that and a 45-30 lead became 49-45. A timeout with over 4 minutes remaining helped the Eagles gather themselves.
“We regained our composure, went back to attacking and that got the lead back up,” Hammen said.
A Duwa basket, then Wyatt Sieren then seven straight points from Sprouse were just what the Eagles needed.
“There were times when it felt like a two-point game and there were times when it felt like a 20-point game,” Duwa said. “All the momentum would be going one way and then it would just take one shot and it changes.”
Keota ups its record of 20-2 while North Mahaska ends 16-5. Keota plays another SICL team, Montezuma (20-2), at Williamsburg Tuesday.