DEKALB – Sterling had the look of a charmed team after opening the Chuck Dayton tournament with a pair of close victories last week.
The Golden Warriors didn't resemble that squad in any way, shape or form on Wednesday.
Sterling and Moline each needed a win to secure a berth in the semifinals of the 85th annual Dayton tournament. The Maroons were able to accomplish that after a 59-41 decision that was not as close as the final score indicated.
Sterling (6-6) scored the game's final 11 points over the last 4-plus minutes, but that did little to appease head coach Jim Preston.
"We weren't ready to play, and I wish I had the answer," Preston said. "That was very evident. We looked like we didn't want to be here today, and that's disappointing because we had a real opportunity. We've got to get this figured out."
Moline (6-6) raced out to an 8-0 lead in the game's opening 3 minutes before Sterling worked its way back. A pair of free throws from Zach Rehmert with 2:41 remaining before halftime got the Warriors to within 22-18, but the Maroons closed the half with a 10-2 run to go up 32-20 at the break.
It only got worse. Sterling made just one of its 14 field goal attempts in the third quarter, which ended with Moline on top 49-24. The Maroons' biggest lead was 29 points (59-30) with 4:50 to play before the Warriors rallied late.
Sterling shot 15-for-58 (26 percent), missed nine of its 16 free throws, was outrebounded 37-27 and committed 25 turnovers.
"It was just a lot of things," senior Zack Everett said. "We're still trying to figure it out ourselves. We'll practice when we get home and we'll try to wash it out of our system. It was just a rough second half."
Moline played an aggressive, trapping zone defense the entire game to bottle Sterling up. Maroons coach Jeff Schimmel didn't have to adjust as it worked so well.
"We've seen Sterling three times and it's always been against man, so I really didn't know coming in how they'd handle the zone," Schimmel said. "It looked like it threw them off their rhythm a little bit. We wanted to force them to take some contested shots. We knew they were really good in the open floor, and and didn't want to give them that option."
Everett thought it was Sterling's lack of execution on offense, rather than anything Moline did.
"I don't know if it was so much their defense as us just not moving," Everett said. "I feel like we were kind of intimidated at some points. It was just a baffling game."
Rehmert led Sterling with 12 points, but was 4-for-17 from the floor in accumulating his points. John Sheppard added seven points.
Derrick Stabler finished with 12 points for Moline, while Jed Wood added added 10.
Moline has now won 21 straight games against Sterling, dating back to the 1989-90 season.
Star of the game: Derrick Stabler, Moline, 12 points, 5 rebounds
Key performers: Zach Rehmert, Sterling, 12 points; Jed Wood (M), 10 points, 5 rebounds