By KEVIN THOMPSON
DEERFIELD — The home court wasn’t kind to the Deerfield Spartans on Tuesday night.
They must have felt that their opponents, the South Gray Rebels, were shooting the ball through a hula hoop, while their first-half goal was more like a golf cup.
The Rebels snared an 82-59 victory over Deerfield to run their record to 16-4.
The Rebels were 18-of-26 from the floor in the first half (69 percent), including 12-of-13 from the duo of Carson Skidmore and Trenton Holloway, who combined for 32 points in that half.
Deerfield held the lead at 9-8 before the Rebels scored on seven of their next eight possessions to end the quarter with a 25-9 lead.
That lead jumped to 49-24 by halftime.
Deerfield put up a fight to start the second half after coach Bob Schmitz told them to have some fun.
Anthony Mata and Rene Rubio scored eight straight points to cut the lead down to 17, but the Rebels found their bearings once again and held on for the win.
The senior Holloway led all scorers with 22 points and the sophomore Skidmore 19, but the Rebels also got 13 points from Tate Skinner (including a trio of threes) and 12 from Jake Peters.
For coach Mark Applegate, the first half was about as solid as his team can play.
“We played very well that first half. We shot it well. We did a good job getting the ball inside,” he said.
Even the second-half lapses weren’t too destructive, he said, adding that his young team’s ability to recover was good to see, especially with the substate tournament coming up.
Now 16-4, Applegate feels good about the direction his team is going at this time.
“This team has dealt with adversity the whole year with injuries and other issues,” he said. “We’ve never had a full team out there in any game all year. It’s a good team and a good group of guys.”
Starting two seniors and three sophomores, the Rebels are looking to return to state for the eighth straight year. The previous seven years were as a 1A school, but this year they moved up to 2A.
“This will be a tough road for us,” Applegate said. “There are some awfully good teams in our substate (including undefeated and top-ranked Meade), but we’ll go in either two or three (with Stanton County), but we’ll get to host.”
The pairings come out later Wednesday, but he thinks they will probably play Hodgman County in the first round.
For Schmitz, his team just couldn’t get out of the blocks very fast, but once they did, his team just couldn’t get back in the rhythm.
“When you give up a lot of size (and weight) inside, they made us pay dearly for it in the first half,” he said. “They’ve got so many weapons — their perimeter game, their paint game — it’s tough to defend.”
Maybe a tough schedule of late just tired out his Spartans, he surmised, but the emotional effort he’s seen from them the past few games just wasn’t there Tuesday.
Mark Skipper led the Spartans with 16 points, and Mata had 14. Rene Rubio added 11.
Deerfield travels to Rolla on Friday to finish the regular season. A win and the Spartans win the league title outright, undefeated. That would be one team goal.
The other is to move on in substate. They will travel to host South Central on Tuesday, probably as a three-seed against sixth-seed Bucklin.
It’s a lengthy trip, but it’s a trip Schmitz hopes his team will get used to as they play one game at a time in the postseason.
South Gray 25 24 20 13 — 82
Deerfield 9 15 20 15 — 59
South Gray (16-4) — Titus 3 2-3 9, Skinner 4 2-4 13, Tyler 2 0-0 5, Peters 6 0-0 12, P. Martens 1 0-0 2, Skidmore 5 8-012 19, Holloway 9 2-2 22. Totals 30-54 14-21 82.
Deerfield (7-12) — Alex Mata 1 0-0 3, Skipper 5 6-8 16, Mike Mata 1 7-10 9, Melendez 0 1-2 1, Anth. Mata 6 0-0 14, Rich 1 2-4 4, Rubio 5 1-2 11, Bemis 0 1-2 1. Totals 19-53 18-28 59.
3-pt. goals — South Gray 8-18 (Titus, Skinner 3, Tyler, Skidmore, Holloway 2), Deerfield 3-10 (Alex Mata, Anth. Mata 2). Rebounds — South Gray 27 (Holloway 8, Peters 6), Deerfield 24 (Skipper 5). Turnovers — South Gray 6, Deerfield 14. Technical fouls — none. Fouled out — South Gray (Loya). Total fouls — South Gray 20, Deerfield 14.