Royals keep title hopes alive

COLO – Keeping your cool against Meskwaki Settlement’s sweltering defensive pressure is easier said than done.

The Royals overcame a cold-shooting first half, a double-digit deficit and a fourth-quarter Warrior rally while maintaining their composure down the stretch.

Cole Ozbun and Tanner Clatt combined to score 26 points after halftime as the Colo-NESCO boys basketball team used a 21-4 surge to take control before hitting their free throws down the stretch to ice a 68-58 victory over Meskwaki Settlement in Iowa Star Conference South Division play Friday.

Allis Tahahwah’s trey brought the Warriors back within 60-56 with 1:15 to play, but the sophomore fouled out on the ensuing possession and was whistled for a technical for removing his jersey while leaving the court. The Royals (14-5, 12-3) turned the opportunity into a five-point possession to stretch the lead to nine and were never threatened again.

It was the exact opposite effect of what the Warriors (17-3, 13-3) usually have on their opponents with their defensive intensity, as they saw their 12-game win streak snapped.

“They do a really good job of coming after you all game and if you don’t keep your cool, it’s really easy for a snowball effect to come in and next thing you know, they go on a 10-0 run,” Colo-NESCO coach Pat Wynja said of Meskwaki. “We preach controlling emotions a lot with our kids and it helps in those kinds of games. That showed up tonight.”

Meskwaki’s opportunistic defense and aggressiveness on the boards helped them piece together an 11-1 spurt in the second quarter to open a 27-16 lead with just more than 3 minutes in the half. The Royals struggled to find their shooting touch but found some points in transition to close the deficit to seven at the break.

“We had the shots we wanted in the first half, we were just a little tight,” Wynja said. “They came out in the third quarter with a goal and there was nothing that was going to stop them.”

Brady Stoeffler and Clatt opened the third with back-to-back treys and Ozbun added another bucket to give the Royals their first lead since 6-3. Clatt buried another triple to continue the surge and Ozbun jumper capped the run to give Colo-NESCO a 43-33 advantage with 1:31 remaining in the third.

“Our shots weren’t falling for us like they normally do,” Meskwaki coach Dina Keahna said. “It seemed like the boys were anticipating they were going to make the shots but they didn’t follow their shots. That’s where a lot of our opportunities escaped us.”

Wade Brown’s 3-point play ended a seven-minute field goal drought for Meskwaki and Tahahwah’s buzzer-beater in transition trimmed the deficit to 45-40 entering the fourth. The Warriors twice came within one in the final period but the Royals refused to budge as Ozbun scored eight of the Royals’ first 12 points in the frame with his wide-open layup off an inbounds widening the gap to seven before Tahahwah’s triple preceded his costly exit from the game.

“You have to stay in control,” Keahna said of the technical. “After the game we discussed how we need to play as a team and keep that team concept, not the individual.

Stoeffler added 10 points for the Royals and Christian Reischauer had nine as Colo-NESCO picked up its 12th win in 14 games. Royce Timberwolf led Meskwaki with 12 points, Tahahwah had 11, Darrion Murray 10 and Brown nine.

“It’s a really good win but we have to work tomorrow and keep it going,” Ozbun said.

The Royals head to GMG today with a chance to earn a share of the Iowa Star Conference South Division title, while the Warriors travel to AGWSR Monday.

Notebook

The Warriors won the first meeting with the Royals but later had to forfeit the game for using a junior varsity player in too many quarters.