SIOUX CITY -- Less than 10 seconds into the fourth quarter of Thursday's CNOS Foundation Classic game, the Le Mars Community Bulldogs could have easily given up.
The 'Dogs, ranked seventh in Class 3A, were trailing Class 4A's fifth-rated Black Raiders of Sioux City East by 16 points -- the biggest deficit Dave Irwin's squad had seen so far this season.
"Our guys battled back," said Irwin, whose Bulldogs came up just short of the Raiders in a 77-70 loss Thursday at the Tyson Events Center Gateway Arena. "To battle back, you have to make some shots, some things have to go your way. A lot of it was that we made things go our way with how our effort was."
East held a 10-point lead, up 72-62, with 1:12 remaining in the game. The Black Raiders had not connected on a field goal since the 5:23 mark and that was East's lone field goal of the final quarter.
Jordan Eisma, who poured in 25 points to lead the 'Dogs, scored at the 1:13 mark to pull the 'Dogs within eight and then Le Mars fouled, putting East's J.C. Fuller at the line. Fuller hit 2-of-2 to put his team ahead by 10 and the battle continued.
Eisma connected on another basket and Fuller returned to the foul line. This time the 6-3 senior went 1-for-2. Le Mars trailed 73-64.
With 40 seconds remaining, Joey Husk drained a three and the 'Dogs were within six. Le Mars put Alex Imming on the line and East's 6-3 senior missed both shots.
Jake Irwin knocked down a 3-point shot with 23 seconds to play and the 'Dogs were within three, down 73-70, but that was as close as Le Mars could get.
Fuller hit his final four foul shots to ensure his team its eighth win of the season.
"There's been a lot of games where we've gotten beat and there's been a lot of games where we lost," Irwin said. "This is one where we got beat. East played well and they did what they had to do to win the game."
In addition to a 25-point effort from Eisma, the Bulldogs got 18 points from senior Austin Homan and 13 points from sophomore point guard Jake Irwin.
Eisma pulled down a team-high six rebounds and handed out three assists. Homan and Nate Oetken each grabbed four rebounds while Irwin and Homan handed out two assists each. Brenden Collins gave out three assists for Le Mars (7-2).
Fuller poured in 25 points to lead East while Imming scored 18. Marcel Dunson had 10 points on the night.
The Bulldogs were able to somewhat contain University of Iowa signee Adam Woodbury, who scored 14 points for East (8-1). When the two squads squared off last February at Carey Gym in Le Mars, Woodbury, who towers above his opponents at 7-foot-1, drilled the 'Dogs with a 26-point effort. East topped Le Mars by a 60-40 margin in the Bulldogs' regular season finale last season.
"We tried to attack at (Woodbury) and make things really difficult for him," Irwin said. "We wanted to put him on the line and make him earn some things. I think Chris (Eckstaine) did a good job on him and Nate (Oetken) did a good job on him. I thought we executed very well."
In fact, Irwin was more pleased with his team's loss on Thursday than he was following a 61-36 win at Cherokee on Tuesday.
"It's hard to explain," Irwin said. "I liked our approach so much better tonight. I thought we played a little more inspired tonight, I thought we played a little more with a purpose. I think that showed.
"We gave a really good team a little scare, especially at the end."
The game was close throughout the first half, with East taking a 24-17 lead after the opening quarter. East built a 29-21 advantage in the second frame but the 'Dogs pulled within two, down 33-31, with 1:30 to play. Taylor DeLaughter hit a 3-pointer with four seconds on the clock to give East a 36-31 lead at halftime. East built a 14-point advantage by the end of the third quarter and saw its biggest lead at the 7:50 mark in the fourth.
"I'm proud of our guys," said Irwin, whose team plays at Sergeant Bluff-Luton on Monday. "Losing still sucks, but I'm proud of our guys for how they handled the whole night."