(Kenny Felt/Exclusive to the Tribune)
Iola (7-6) made just 3 field goals in the first half on 18 shots. The Mustangs didn't get on the board until there was 2:08 remaining in the first quarter and scored just 1 point in the final five minutes of the first half.
It took the Tigers (5-8) about three minutes to get going themselves as it looked like the first-quarter sluggishness they've been hoping to shake was rearing up again. But Alex Fink got Fort Scott's first field goal with 4:44 to go in the first and Jash Pytlowany and Mason Knopp quickly followed to make it 7-0.
"It took both teams a couple of minutes to get going and fortunately we were the first team to get it going offensively," Fort Scott head coach Jeff DeLaTorre said. "But I thought we set the tone with our defensive effort. We came out and made it difficult on them.
"We forced some tough shots early and got some rebounds. I thought we did a good job of defending them early on."
Kaleb DeLaTorre's 3-point shot from an inbound play boosted Fort Scott's lead to 12-5 at the end of the first quarter. Johnathan Stark put in a 3-point play and a 3-point shot in the first two minutes of the second quarter to make it a 13-point lead.
Mason Knopp scored 7 points and Jack Olin added 4 as the Tigers wrapped up the half with a 14-1 run to make it 32-8. Knopp finished as Fort Scott's second-leading scorer on the night with 9 points and Olin finished with 6, both of them off the bench.
With DeLaTorre adding 6 himself, the Tigers found some balance in scoring to go along with Stark's game-leading 15 points. If they can keep that up, it will help a lot as the Tigers step back into Southeast Kansas League play for the rest of the season beginning Tuesday night at Pittsburg.
"A lot of guys contributed," DeLaTorre noted. "That's good to see and it's good to have. We've gone with different lineups and combinations throughout the season and when you've got multiple guys who can score on a given night that makes it hard on the other team to prepare for."
The special ceremonies that were held at halftime -- the posthumous induction of E.J. Hawkins into the Kansas State High School Activities Association Hall of Fame and the retirement of FSHS graduate Adam LaRoche's baseball jersey -- made the break about twice as long as usual. It took a little bit of time for the Tigers to get their offense going again out of the half.
"We wanted to be consistent tonight and play well for 32 minutes," DeLaTorre said. "Halftime was a perfect opportunity to emphasize that. We were a little flat coming out. We lost a step coming out after the half but we got it back."
Iola scored the first 4 points of the half. But Pytlowany sparked a run in which the Tigers scored 6 consecutive points off Iola turnovers by converting a Stark steal into a layup after a nice behind-the-back pass from Knopp. Then Stark converted a DeLaTorre steal for a layup and made two free throws after being fouled following another steal. Moments after that, DeLaTorre hit a 3-pointer from the right wing to cap a 9-0 run that made it 41-12 with 3:58 remaining.
It was 45-14 with 2:06 to go. Iola's Kaden Macha scored with 1:39 left, which turned out to be the start of Iola's only scoring run of the night -- perhaps sparked by a desire to not allow the margin to reach 30 points during the fourth quarter, which would cause the running-clock mercy rule to take effect.
With two baskets by Eli Grove and another from Macha to start the fourth quarter, Iola closed the deficit to 45-22, which was enough to at least force the game to be played out under normal timing rules.
Fort Scott didn't score a field goal in the fourth quarter, but Iola only managed 4 more points itself after that run and both teams emptied their benches in the final three minutes.
Stark and Knopp each hauled down 7 rebounds as the Tigers won the battle of the boards, 35-24.
Macha was Iola's leading scorer with 6 points as he was one of just two Mustangs who scored more than one field goal. Iola shot 27 percent from the floor, making 9 of 33 field-goal attempts. Fort Scott shot 34 percent on 14 of 41 as they beat the Mustangs for the 45th consecutive time.
JUNIOR VARSITY -- Olin finished with 8 points to lead the Tiger JV in a 61-29 rout of Iola.
IOLA: Latta 0-6 1-2 1, Ashmore 1-3 2-2 5, Coons 0-3 0-0 0, Mueller 0-1 0-0 0, Wallace 0-1 2-4 2, Morrison 0-1 0-0 0, McIntosh 1-4 0-0 2, Zimmerman 0-1 0-0 0, Clubine 0-1 0-0 0, Macha 3-4 0-0 6, Kauth 1-3 2-5 4, Powelson 1-2 0-0 2, Grover 2-3 0-2 4. TOTALS: 9-33 7-15 26.
FORT SCOTT: DeLaTorre 2-8 0-0 6, Woodring 0-0 0-0 0, Sather 0-1 2-2 2, Brown 0-1 1-3 1, Pytlowany 2-5 0-0 4, Bradbury 0-0 2-2 2, Fink 1-4 6-7 15, Sinn 0-2 0-0 0, Knopp 3-6 2-6 9, Davenport 0-1 2-2 2, Olin 2-3 2-2 6, Horn 0-0 0-0 0, Labbe 0-1 0-0 0. TOTALS: 14-41 17-24 49.
Iola................. 5 3 8 10 -- 26
Fort Scott....... 12 20 13 4 -- 49
Three-point field goals: Iola 1-8 (Ashmore 1-1, Mueller 0-1, Morrison 0-1, Zimmerman 0-1, Latta 0-2, Coons 0-2), Fort Scott 4-16 (DeLaTorre 2-5, Knopp 1-1, Stark 1-4, Sather 0-1, Brown 0-1, Pytlowany 0-2, Fink 0-2).
Total fouls: Iola 18, Fort Scott 16. Fouled out: None. Technical fouls: None.
Rebounds: Iola 224 (Coons 5), Fort Scott 35 (Stark 7, Knopp 7). Assists: Iola 5 (Kauth 2), Fort Scott 9 (DeLaTorre 3). Turnovers: Iola 25, Fort Scott 20. Steals: Iola 10 (Mueller 3), Fort Scott 14 (Stark 6). Blocked shots: Iola 3 (3 with 1 each), Fort Scott 3 (Olin 2).