NEVADA - An aggressive 2-3 zone defense helped Nevada pull away from Colo-NESCO, 52-41, in a non-conference boys’ basketball rivalry game Saturday in Nevada.


The Cubs (5-6) trailed 34-33 late in the third quarter following three straight baskets from Colo-NESCO’s Matthew Hill. But Luke Merfeld scored inside just before the end of the quarter to ignite a 17-3 run that gave Nevada its second victory in a row returning from Christmas break.


Nevada held Colo-NESCO to just one field goal from late in the third quarter until the final minute of the fourth. Nevada’s size and long arms gave Colo-NESCO fits, both inside and in the passing lanes, as the Cubs cut off driving lanes and forced several turnovers.


“Our press really helped,” Merfeld said. “I think they got tired toward the end of the game and that really helped us.”


Colo-NESCO — a Class 1A program — wasn’t used to facing a squad with the depth, size and athleticism its 3A foe presented on Saturday. The Royals were out of sorts at times, trying to figure out how to score, especially in the fourth quarter.


“They extend that zone so much and when you’re facing a zone like that, all five guys on the floor have to be on the same page,” Colo-NESCO head boys’ basketball coach Pat Wynja said. “We had too many guys just kind of hiding — floating behind the defense. You’ve got to get the ball moving and if you hold it, you’re kind of in trouble. I was just kind of disappointed down the stretch how some guys were hiding down the floor.”


Hill carried most of the scoring load for Colo-NESCO, garnering a game-high 21 points, and he added four blocks and rebounds apiece. Hill engaged in a good battle inside with Merfeld, who netted 13 points and added nine rebounds and six blocks.


“I’ve played against him a few times, (but) not very often,” Merfeld said of Hill. “He averages 21 points a game — he’s a very good player.”


Trent Stahl led Nevada with 14 points and he also had three assists.


Stahl carried most of the load in the first half — scoring 10 over the first two quarters — and he hit all four of his free throws in the fourth to help ice the game. Stahl said following up a 74-43 win at Saydel on Friday gave his team a big boost after the Cubs dropped their last three games before Christmas.


“Getting two wins after break and 4-3 in the (Heart of Iowa Conference), that’s good,” Stahl said. “It helps us get going toward the second half of the season.”


Om’Unique Wilkerson scored all eight of his points in the second half and he also came up with four steals and one assist for Nevada. Jack Higgins added seven points and six rebounds and Devin See also scored seven points for the Cubs.


Colo-NESCO fell to 6-3 with the loss. The game was the Royals’ first outing in 16 days.


“First game out of break — I was happy with the kids,” Wynja said. “As soon as we can figure out how to put four quarters together with effort that we’re capable of, we’re going to be a pretty good 1A team for sure.”


Philip Bower added nine points and five assists, Sean Cutler scored six points and tallied five rebounds and three assists and Jacob Clatt finished with five points, nine rebounds and two blocks for the Royals.


Nevada 52, Colo-NESCO 41


CN 15 9 10 7 - 41


N 12 15 8 17 - 52


Colo-NESCO (41) - Kelly Gray 0-0 0-0 0, Brighton Clatt 0-0 0-0 0, Philip Bower 4-12 0-2 9, Sean Cutler 2-6 0-0 6, Mason Lytle 0-0 0-0 0, Matthew Hill 8-14 5-6 21, Jacob Clatt 2-5 1-2 5, Bryce Niemeyer 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 16-38 6-10 41. 3-point field goals (3): Cutler 2, Bower. Rebounds (30): J. Clatt 9. Assists (11): Bower 5. Steals (4): Gray, Bower, Cutler, Hill. Blocks (6): Hill 4. Fouls: 15. Fouled out: J. Clatt.


Nevada (52) - Trent Stahl 3-11 6-6 14, Devin See 3-7 1-3 7, Kody Kruschwitz 0-0 0-0 0, Jack Higgins 3-6 1-2 7, Tyler Sansgaard 0-5 0-0 0, Luke Merfeld 6-10 1-2 13, Jakob Strottman 0-0 3-4 3, Om’Unique Wilkerson 4-8 0-1 8, Jack Cahill 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 19-47 12-18 52. 3-point field goals (2): Stahl 2. Rebounds (27): Merfeld 9. Assists (9): Stahl 3. Steals (9): Wilkerson 4. Blocks (8): Merfeld 6. Fouls: 12.