T-R ALL-AREA GIRLS BASKETBALL: In the blocks, ready to rock
MESKWAKI SETTLEMENT – Blink and you may get beat off the dribble.
Turn your head and you’re likely two steps behind.
Slow down to catch your breath? Simply not an option.
Such is the situation when guarding Dia Keahna, the fleet-footed floor general of Meskwaki Settlement’s fast-paced attack and the 2012-13 Times Republican’s All-Area Girls Basketball Player of the Year.
“We play fast-break, run-and-gun,” said Keahna, an Iowa Girls Coaches Association all-state first team selection and Class 1A leader in total points (538).
“We don’t slow down for anything or anyone.”
The 5-foot-6 senior guard served as the perfect pacesetter for the Warriors’ up-tempo offense, orchestrating a 10-game turnaround from 2011-12 and the school’s first winning season (20-5) in four years as a program.
“It fits Dia’s style perfectly because she likes to run,” Meskwaki coach Heath Brown said of his team’s speed-oriented strategy, which takes advantage of the Warriors’ college size home court that stretches 10 feet longer and 8 feet wider than many high school gyms.
“She likes to push the ball and I think that’s where she really excels because people can’t keep up with her.”
The Des Moines Register all-state second-team honoree strengthened her stamina through accelerated practice sessions that Brown compares to the cadence utilized by the University of Oregon football team.
“We try to keep it up-tempo and keep the breaks to a minimum,” he said. “It’s quick, quick, quick – teach. Quick, quick, quick – teach. We kind of follow the Oregon Ducks football team. It’s that style of quick pace.”
Hardly anyone could keep pace with Keahna’s scoring prowess either as she poured in 21.5 points per game (2nd best in Class 1A) and scored 20 or more 19 times. The Iowa Newspaper Association all-state second-team honoree eclipsed 30 points on four occasions including a career-best 35 (along with 14 steals) against CAL, though it was a scorching 34-point performance in a road win over state qualifier Colo-NESCO that Keahna remembers most vividly.
Listening to Alicia Keys’ song, “Girl on Fire” before the game, Keahna was exactly that after tip-off, burying 7-of-10 3-pointers and dishing out eight assists to lead Meskwaki to a 64-57 victory over the Royals.
“I was just on fire,” Keahna said, noting the song became her anthem of choice for the season. “That song was playing through my head the whole game. I was just shooting and they were going in.”
It was a common occurrence for the Iowa Star Conference elite team member who buried 41 3-pointers, converted 51.8 percent of her field-goal attempts and tied for fifth in Class 1A with 117 free-throw makes – propelling the Warriors to a runner-up finish in the Iowa Star Conference South Division.
The Warrior guard demonstrated she can do more than light up the scoreboard though, leading the team in steals (110) and blocks (21), while finishing second in assists (112) and third in rebounds (85).
Keahna is making her second appearance on the T-R All-Area team after earning a second-team nod in 2011, while Grundy Center’s Sam Meyers and Marshalltown’s Eisha Oden both claimed repeat first-team selections. Rounding out the first team are Colo-NESCO’s Madison Eley, Grundy Center’s Heather Hook, West Marshall’s Jennifer Davis and South Tama’s Kaleigh Sieck. It’s Hook’s third time on the squad after earning second-team honors in 2012 and a third-team selection in 2011. Eley was a second-team representative in 2011 before missing nearly all of her junior year due to injury.
Keahna overcame her own interruption last season, while adjusting to a new set of teammates and a different style of play after completing her sophomore season and the first half of her junior campaign at South Tama County.
Playing alongside Madison Baier – a two-time T-R All-Area Girls Player of the Year who now plays at Iowa State – Keahna was a key contributor to the Trojans’ state qualifying team in 2010-11 and was the second-leading scorer (10.9 ppg) the following year before transferring to Meskwaki mid-season. Keahna, who also played her freshman campaign with the Warriors, finished her junior year with the Meskwaki JV squad as state rules prohibited her from playing varsity until this season.
“I just missed it over there (Tama) so I transferred back and we had a good season,” Keahna said of her decision to return to South Tama County, where she grew up playing AAU ball with many of the players since third grade.
“I had most of my friends there and played with them when I was younger. Then, I missed it back over here (Meskwaki Settlement) so I transferred back.”
While the move back to Meskwaki momentarily stalled Keahna’s varsity career, her numbers skyrocketed in her senior season. Switching from a more traditional offense at STC to the Warriors’ speedy attack, the shifty guard nearly doubled her scoring average (10.9 to 21.5), while making significant strides in field-goal percentage (34.7 to 51.8) and 3-point accuracy (23.6 to 34.2).
Establishing an early rapport with backcourt mate and fellow Iowa Star Conference elite team selection Tiana Thompson eased Keahna’s changeover to a new roster, while further accelerating the Warriors’ rise.
“I played with Ti Ti at open gym a lot and we just had that chemistry,” said Keahna, a two-time T-R All-Area selection. “I could read her and she could read me.”
Propelled by its backcourt tandem, Meskwaki saw its scoring average rise from 42.5 points per game to a league-best 58.3, while the team’s field goal percentage spiked from 32.8 to 49.1.
While maintaining a breakneck pace has defined Keahna’s rapid rise over the past year, she’s slowing things down for her next course of action – deciding where she’ll continue her basketball career.
Receiving interest from more than a half-dozen schools, the Iowa Star Conference South Division first team selection has narrowed her focus to four – Kirkwood Community College, Ellsworth CC, Cornell College and Haskell Indian Nations University (Kan.).
With pending visits to be made, the senior is taking her time on the decision, mirroring the main area she wants to improve for the next level.
“Just reading what the defense gives you when you’re on the fast break and when you have to set up a play,” said Keahna on the next facet of her game she hopes to hone.
Regardless of where Keahna runs her next fast break, Brown believes the senior’s relentless work ethic and endearing personality will lead to success wherever she goes.
“She makes everyone around her better,” Brown said. “I’ve known her since she was a baby. Watching her grow and seeing the amount of time she’s spent in the gym – it’s all paid off for her.”
Keahna will compete on the Class 1A Select team in the Larry Niemeyer Senior All-Star Game sponsored by the Iowa Girls Coaches Association April 7 at Kirkwood Community College. The career 1,000-point scorer will be joined by Grundy Center’s Sam Meyers as the Class 1A Select team faces the Class 2A Select squad at 2 p.m. … Keahna credited her mother, Tia Waseskuk (a track star at South Tama County), for her speed. “My mom is fast and I think I just get it from her. She set some records (at STC) that still stand today.”