Royals ward off Wildcat comeback, 59-52

COLO – An earlier version of his team would likely force Pat Wynja to burn through his timeouts.

But with his young squad rapidly maturing, the Royals coach can keep a few in his pocket.

Showing it can succeed with the additional freedom, the Colo-NESCO boys basketball team staved off a fourth quarter rally and led wire-to-wire in a 59-52 victory over Janesville in cross-divisional Iowa Star Conference action Tuesday.

Cole Ozbun led the way with 16 points, Brady Stoeffler added 15 and Christian Reischauer 13 as the Royals (7-4, 6-2) claimed their fourth straight win and halted the Wildcats’ seven-game streak.

“They grew up a little bit,” said Wynja of his squad. “We still had a few moments where our youth kind of showed but we really wanted to let them play through those situations and see if they could learn – they did.

Seeing their 14-point lead cut in half at the mid-point of the fourth, the Royals received two big buckets from Grant Tiarks and Tanner Clatt as Colo-NESCO made enough stops down the stretch.

“We just had to keep our composure as a team and look for the open guy,” said Reischauer. “Just be smart with the ball, we couldn’t rush things.”

Janesville (8-2, 6-2) occasionally wreaked havoc with its trap defense but was playing catch up the entire night as the Royals led from the outset.

Colo-NESCO scored the first nine points of the contest and led 14-5 after the first, before staving off several rallies from Janesville. The Wildcats closed within three early in the second quarter, though the Royals countered with a 10-4 surge as Ozbun’s free throws widened the gap to nine.

Hunter Meyer buried back-to-back 3s to trim the deficit to 31-26 at 6:30 of the third, though Stoeffler drilled a triple of his own igniting seven unanswered points for the Royals, which led by 14 heading into the fourth.

Wynja used one his timeouts when the Wildcats cut the lead to seven with just under four minutes to play, but for the most part didn’t need to remind his players too much of what they’d focused on in practice.

“We knew they had some shooters,” said Wynja. “We contested the ball really well and they didn’t make their 3s. Our rebounding was outstanding tonight.”

Meyer entered the game as a 41-percent 3-point shooter but went scoreless in he first half, while Danny Amlie – another long-distance threat averaging 11 points a game – was limited to four.

Meyer and Jack Thode led Janesville with 12 points apiece and Zach Armstead added eight. Tanner Clatt chipped in nine points for the Royals and Grant Tiarks added six.

The Royals start a four-game road trek with Ankeny Christian Academy Thursday before facing CAL at Latimer Friday.

But with the improvements the Royals have made defensively and on the glass, Wynja is confident his team will be ready for the test.

“They just want to be better, they want to win,” said Wynja. “They’re hungry and ready to go.”