NEWTON – Colo-NESCO’s Samantha Riese has missed the last two weeks with an injured ankle. And she did not play in the previous meeting against Meskwaki Settlement School.
The ankle looked just fine Monday night though as the sophomore center poured in 17 points and the seventh-ranked Royals blasted the No. 9 Warriors, 57-36, at Newton Senior High School in the Class 1A Region 5 finals.
The win sends Colo-NESCO to the Iowa Girls State Basketball Tournament for the eighth time in school history.
“This really feels awesome,” said Riese, who had a combined three points in the first two meetings against the conference rival Warriors. “It’s a great feeling. I love the seniors on this team. They talked to us at halftime and let us know that we needed to finish it. We got it done tonight.”
It was the 17th straight win for the Royals, who will take a 23-2 record into the state tournament. The only two losses came to Class 2A No. 8 West Marshall in the first game of the season and to these same Warriors back on Dec. 11, 2012 – the last time the Royals suffered defeat.
Meskwaki Settlement beat Colo-NESCO 62-57 on that night, but the Royals returned the favor earlier this month on the Warriors’ homecourt, winning 69-67 without Riese in the lineup.
Colo-NESCO will put its win streak on the line against fifth-ranked Notre Dame (21-3) next Monday at the state tournament. That game will tip off at 1:30 p.m. at Wells Fargo Arena. The winner will face either unranked Earlham (16-9) and top-ranked Central Lyon (23-2).
Monday’s game was nowhere near as close as the previous meetings. Colo-NESCO led throughout by dominating the painted area. Riese had 16 of her points in the paint, while Caitlyn Riese added eight of her nine in the lane and Madison Eley pitched in six of her 11 inside. Madison Farren also scored eight of her 11 as the Royals did not make a 3-pointer in the game.
“There was no use chucking up a bunch of 3-pointers when you have the size advantage inside,” Colo-NESCO coach Wayne Cafferty said. “We took advantage of the height inside.”
The Royals did the same thing in the previous two meetings against the Warriors but lost one of those games because Meskwaki Settlement senior Dia Keahna scored 34 points in the win.
Keahna put in 20 of the Warriors 36 on Monday, but the inside play of the Royals was too much overcome.
“The first time we played (Meskwaki) we had no idea how good Keahna was and she scored 34 against us,” Cafferty said. “The second time we did not have Sam and (Meskwaki) couldn’t miss from the field.”
It was a big contrast Monday as the Royals rarely missed in the first half, while Meskawki Settlement turned it over way too many times and shot a low percentage from the floor.
The Royals led 14-9 after one quarter and used an 8-0 run to push the lead to 20-9 early in the second. That was the largest lead of the half for the Royals as they led by 10 at the break.
Colo-NESCO (23-2) outscored the Warriors (20-5) 13-4 in the third quarter and most of the Royals points came from Samantha Riese. She began the period with back-to-back buckets and then scored the final six of the frame to give her team a 38-19 lead heading into the fourth.
“In the first two games, both Caitlyn and Madison (Eley) combined for 33 points and most of those were scored in the lane,” Cafferty said. “So we knew we could get the ball inside and Sam’s presence was huge tonight.”
The Royals maintained a large lead in the fourth quarter. The advantage got as big as 23 points. They made 11 free throws in the final frame to clinch the win.
“I can’t explain this feeling right now,” said Eley, who finished with 11 points in the win. “We worked hard to get to this point. It feels great.”
Eley missed all but one game last year with a torn ACL. She led the Royals in scoring this season and helped guide them back to the state tournament.
“I feel like it was just all part of the plan,” Eley said. “Last year happened the way that it did so this year could happen the way that it did. I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
The Royals’ balance on offense also played a factor in the win against the Warriors. Samantha Riese’ 17 points led the way, but Farren and Eley both had 11 and Caitlyn Riese added nine.
Keahna had a game-high 20 but no other Warrior scored more than six in the loss.
The Royals also qualified for the state tournament in 1980 when they were just Colo and advanced to state as Colo-NESCO in 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 2002 and 2005. … Caitlyn Riese scored 20 points in each of the first two meetings against the Warriors. Her sister stole the show on Monday. “I love knowing that if I am not in there scoring, she is in there scoring,” Samantha Riese said about her and sister playing inside the lane. “I love playing with her and going to state with her is pretty amazing.” … Notre Dame’s three losses this year came to Class 3A’s No. 6 Mediapolis, No. 8 Central Lee and top-ranked Davenport Assumption. The team is led by senior Morgan Myers’ 14.7 points per game while sophomores Taylor Hickey (12.2) and Courtney Coffin (11.1) also score in double-figures.