FOREST CITY — With almost the entire first half of the conference slate completed in the Top of Iowa Conference West Division, Forest City was looking like the early favorite.
The Indians, who had won 20 of 22 coming into Tuesday’s match-up vs. Bishop Garrigan, knew it was going to be another tough test. The Golden Bears rose to the challenge to hand Forest City its first loss of the season and move into a tie for first with the Indians atop the conference standing after a 58-56 victory.
“We had to have this to keep pace in the conference and to have a chance to win to conference,” Garrigan coach Harry Condoleon said. “I knew defense would be the key, and we beat a defensive team with defense at the end so that’s pretty special.”
For much of Tuesday’s first half, Forest City was the better team.
The Indians were knocking down their perimeter shots and Sam Snyder was a force under the rim. But seemingly every time the Indians would try to make a run, Garrigan had an answer to at least keep it close. Forest City never built more than a five-point lead in the first half, and led 30-29 after two quarters of play. Snyder had 15 points for the Indians in the half.
The third quarter is when momentum shifted Garrigan’s way.
“We came out at halftime and we were just pumped,” Garrigan junior TJ Schnurr said. “We knew that we needed to get stops and just capitalize off it.”
The Golden Bears’ size started to factor in protecting the rim, and on the other side, the Forest City shooters began to go cold as the Indians were held to two field goals in the third.
Garrigan grabbed a 40-39 lead with 2:05 left in the third and never looked back.
“We’ve been a really good third-quarter team all year – one of the best in the state- and I told them in the locker room ‘This is our quarter. Let’s come out and play defense,’” Condoleon said. “I didn’t like our defense in the first half — I thought we were flat-footed — but much better in the second half. Intensity picked up and they realized they could win the game.”
The Indians kept things close all the way to the end, and even had a chance to tie the game with 1.5 seconds to play, but a pair of missed free throws ended the contest.
Schnurr led the Golden Bears with 15 points, Brad Capesius scored 14 and John Joyce added 11 to give Garrigan three players in double figures.
“I think it just gives us big confidence … the confidence that we can match up with anyone, size-wise, and we like to play fast and we’re a good matchup with anybody,” Schnurr said of the win.
Snyder scored a game-high 24 points to lead the Indians while Avery Busta chipped in 14.
“It’s a long season, like I told the guys, and we’re not going to let one game define us,” Forest City coach Dan Rosacker said. “It’s one I thought we could’ve had, but we just didn’t execute and they made more plays down the stretch.”