Unbeaten and largely untested, a close game marks uncharted territory for the Dunkerton boys basketball team.
North Tama gave the Raiders little time to adapt to the new surroundings Monday in front of a raucous, standing-room only crowd.
Outscoring Class 1A No. 7 ranked Dunkerton 21-8 over a seven-minute span in the first half, the eighth-ranked Redhawks claimed the driver's seat early before holding off a late Raider rally for a 62-53 victory in Iowa Star Conference play.
Above, Mitchell Boerm goes for a layup and two of his game-high 27 points against Dunkerton on Monday night. Below, Dalton Hulme shoots over a Dunkerton defender during the 62-53 win.
Mitchell Boerm led North Tama with a game-high 27 points and 10 rebounds as the Redhawks (20-1, 16-0) set a school single-season record for wins with their 10th straight victory.
Forcing turnovers with their half-court trap and scoring in transition, North Tama dictated play with its up-tempo style from the opening tip.
"That is definitely our comfort zone," North Tama coach Brandon Clubb said. "We want to go fast all the time. We knew we could take advantage of that, especially in the first half, which was a lot more the style of game we want to play. That was definitely a point of emphasis for us tonight."
Dalton Hulme made a couple of fast-break buckets and Boerm buried a 3-pointer as the Redhawks rattled off eight straight points to open a 10-point advantage early in the second quarter. Boerm added another triple from the top of the key before Jacob Wrage drained one from the corner stretching the margin to 29-14 with 3:30 left in the opening half.
Playing a 2-3 zone anchored by 6-foot-9 center Kory Kuenstling, the Raiders dared the Redhawks to attack from outside and North Tama came through with four first-half treys and six in the game.
"We knew they would sit back there with (Kuenstling) in the middle, so we knew we had to make those shots," Clubb said. "We did a lot of zone work in practice all week and it carried over tonight."
Kuenstling kept the Raiders afloat with 12 of their 20-first half points and tallied a team-high 19 for the game, but became more hesitant defensively after picking up his third foul late in the second quarter.
The Redhawks' outside onslaught didn't relent in the third as Hulme knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers to give North Tama its largest lead at 42-23 less than two and half minutes in.
The Raiders (19-1, 15-1) started heating up soon after as Dillon Anderson, Trevor Jacobsen and Jason Bedard each connected from long range, while Kuenstling added a 3-point play during a 12-2 spurt for Dunkerton. Bedard's trey brought the Raiders within eight with 1:13 left in the third, but they couldn't draw any closer.
"They're a great team and we knew they were going to hit a couple 3s," said Boerm.
"We knew they were going to make their run, we just had to withstand it and hold them off at the end."
Boerm put back his own miss before adding a spinning fadeaway jumper and a steal and layup to widen the gap back to 14. The senior capped the flurry by drawing a charge at the other end and tacking on a block as North Tama played keep away for the final three minutes.
"(Mitchell) came to play tonight," Clubb said.
"He made some tough plays on both ends of the floor - taking charges, getting blocks, taking it inside and making shots when we needed him to. He just played a complete game tonight."
Hulme added 19 points for the Redhawks, who had already wrapped up their third straight South Division crown. Nolan Hefty tallied eight points, while Wrage had three points and 10 assists.
Bedard scored 15 points and Jacobsen had 10 for the Raiders, which entered the contest with an 31.1 point average margin of victory. Their closest game before Monday was a 17-point victory over Colo-NESCO.
The Redhawks also cruised through much of their slate winning games by an average of 31.7 points, though Clubb knew his squad was ready for the moment.
"These guys are very mentally tough," said Clubb.
We have a lot of seniors who have been around a long time. They've been in some big situations, not quite as big as this atmosphere, but we anticipated it and prepped for it. We knew they couldn't get rattled tonight and they didn't."
The Redhawks wrapped up the regular season against Union on the road Tuesday night.