Meskwaki keeps pace by keeping ’Cats at bay

MESKWAKI SETTLEMENT – While they prefer to run-and-gun, the Warriors know there’s a time and place to slow it down.

Playing shorthanded due to several players out with the flu, the Class 1A No. 13 ranked Meskwaki girls basketball team let off the pedal – but not their lead – late for a 54-50 victory over Janesville in Iowa Star Conference action Tuesday.

Rallying from a 13-point deficit in the third, the Wildcats pulled within 52-50 with six seconds left on Anna Backstrom’s trey. The Warriors broke Janesville’s press and Kadyn Clark found a wide-open layup as time expired.

Notching a 15-3 run, the Wildcats rallied within 40-38 with 7:15 to play, before Meskwaki slowed things down and played keep away while making 8-of-10 free throws during a six minute stretch in the fourth.

“We kind of got tired there,” Meskwaki coach Heath Brown said. “Our point guards started fatiguing a bit. I figured I’d give them a breather, let them get their composure and then take it at (Janesville) again.”

Dia Keahna maintained her recent scoring surge with 17 of her game-high 27 points in the second half leading Meskwaki to its fourth straight win. Tiana Thompson added 17 points and helped the Warriors grab their largest lead with a transition basket to cap an 11-3 flurry midway through the third.

The senior duo combined for 18 of Meskwaki’s 20 points in the frame as the Warriors’ relied upon their aggressive defense and fast-break attack to widen the margin from 21-16 at halftime.

“We just kept the pressure on and kept the tempo at our speed,” Brown said. “Run, run, run – we just keep attacking the basket and use our speed to our advantage.”

Keahna has been at the forefront of that attack averaging more than 26 points in her last seven outings and reaching 30 or more three times.

“She plays hard and hustles to the end of the game just like her teammates,” Brown said. “They stayed together the entire game.”

The Warriors (11-1, 8-1) entered the game one win behind Class 1A No. 14 Colo-NESCO in the race for the Iowa Star Conference’s South Division title.

Backstrom led Janesville (10-3, 7-2) – the Iowa Star Conference North Division leader – coming into Tuesday – with 17 points and Mary Hovenga had 13.

The Warriors continue conference play at home against Tripoli Friday and travel to Central City on Saturday.