A veteran Colo-Nesco girls’ basketball team turned in another big season in 2016-17 as the Royals won their fifth consecutive Iowa Star Conference South Division title and reached the regional semifinals.

Colo-Nesco returned all but one of its top eight scorers off last year’s 20-4 team. The Royals encountered a tougher schedule this winter, but they didn’t drop much in the win column, going 18-6 overall and claiming the ISC South Division title with a 15-2 record.

“I was pleased with the effort and attitudes of the girls for the whole season,” Colo-Nesco head girls’ basketball coach Wayne Cafferty said. “They worked hard and wanted to get better. They were a very coachable group that was a lot of fun to be around. I looked forward to going to practice everyday.”

The Royals’ only losses from the start of the season through the end of January came against top-15 3A school West Marshall and a 17-win Dunkerton team.

During that stretch Colo-Nesco swept a quality 14-win GMG team, downed a 16-win Tripoli squad and hammered a 10-win 3A team in Collins-Maxwell-Baxter. The Royals also avenged last year’s 1A regional semifinal loss to Grand View Christian by crushing the Thunder, 67-35, on Jan. 30.

February wasn’t so kind to Colo-Nesco. Facing the No. 2 4A team in Nevada, a surging 3A team in Roland-Story, top-15 1A power and ISC North Division champion Janesville and a strong AGWSR squad, the Royals only won one of their final five games.

Janesville edged Colo-Nesco by a 54-48 score in Colo on Feb. 3. Roland-Story defeated the Royals by a 58-35 margin the next night and on Feb. 6, Nevada handed Colo-Nesco a 47-29 setback at home.

The Royals opened 1A regional play by destroying North Tama, 68-13, Feb. 14 at Colo. Three days later, Colo-Nesco suffered a lopsided regional semifinal loss for the second year in a row, ending the season with a 67-38 setback against AGWSR in Colo.

Colo-Nesco struggled offensively and with physical play in its losses down the stretch.

“We had trouble with consistency on the offensive end and with our passing,” Cafferty said. “We had a number of passes get tipped, which made it difficult to get good movement in our offense and deliver the ball in our specials.”

The Royals averaged 57.6 points, shooting 38.4 percent from the field, 24.8 percent from 3-point range and 54.1 percent from the line. They made 102 3-pointers and had 18.4 turnovers versus 15.9 assists per game.

On defense, Colo-Nesco gave up an average of 35.4 points. The Royals also averaged an impressive 17.9 steals.

“I was pleased with our growth on the defensive end and the improvements the girls made in our press,” Cafferty said.

Colo-Nesco averaged 34.5 rebounds per game. The Royals pulled down an average of 13.3 offensive rebounds per contest.

Senior forward Grace Stalzer and sophomore guard Faith Vincent led Colo-Nesco. Both individuals were first team all-ISC South Division performers.

Stalzer averaged 9.0 points, 8.6 rebounds, 2.7 steals and 2.5 assists as a versatile force on both ends of the floor. She shot 45.9 percent from the floor.

Vincent hit a team-best 40 3-pointers at a 34.8-percent clip and led the Royals in scoring, assists and steals with 9.8 points, 3.8 assists and 3.2 steals per game. Vincent also averaged 2.2 rebounds and she shot 76.9 percent from the line.

Senior forward Kassie Robinson also had a big year, making the ISC South Division first team. Robinson averaged 9.4 points, shooting 43.8 percent from the field and 64.3 percent from the line and she also pulled down 5.3 rebounds per game and averaged 1.9 steals.

Junior Mackenna Ruffcorn returned from an ACL injury to make all-ISC honorable mention after tallying 5.4 points, 2.8 rebounds, 1.9 steals and 1.8 assists per game. Ruffcorn drilled 16 3-pointers on the season.

Junior center Molly Barten, freshman guard Lauryn Hill, senior guard Rachel Vincent, junior guard Chelsea Henze and senior center Delaney McGill all averaged at least 3.0 points for a deep Royal roster.

Barten produced 5.3 points and 3.5 rebounds per game and she also blocked a total of 16 shots. Hill delivered 4.0 points, 2.1 assists and 1.8 steals per game and Rachel Vincent hit 12 3-pointers and averaged 3.9 points, 2.7 steals, 2.3 rebounds and 1.3 assists.

Henze drained 17 3-pointers and averaged 3.7 points, 2.0 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.3 steals. McGill put up 3.0 points and 2.5 rebounds per game and she shot 47.8 percent from the field.

Freshman Rylee Purvis, sophomore Emma Sarver and senior Madisen Lundqiust also saw ample varsity action. Purvis recorded 2.6 points and 2.1 rebounds per game, Sarver averaged 2.1 points, 1.4 steals and 1.0 assists and Lundquist totaled 14 points and rebounds apiece.

Losing Stalzer, Robinson, Rachel Vincent, McGill and Lundquist leaves Colo-Nesco with some holes to fill for 2017-18.

“We’re going to miss Grace Stalzer,” Cafferty said. “She was our glue — she did a little of everything with a lot of rebounding.”

“Kassie showed great improvement her senior year — (she) improved a lot defensively and became more consistent on offense,” Cafferty said. “Rachel did a great job on defense and was playing really well before being slowed up with an ankle injury. Delaney and Madisen did a great job of leadership in practice and showing the underclassmen the ‘team’ mentality.”

But with Faith Vincent and Ruffcorn back to lead a still deep roster, the Royals will again make a run at another ISC South Division title next season.

“We have a good nucleus, with seven returning letterwinners and four girls who have some starting experience,” Cafferty said. “We need to find out who is going to be our key rebounders next year and need to find some players to become the ‘go-to’ scorers on a nightly basis.”