COLO - Playing with no fear paid dividends for the Colo-NESCO girls’ basketball team against Janesville in a showdown between the top two Iowa Star Conference teams to end the regular season Feb. 6 in Colo.
Colo-NESCO, ranked No. 15 in Class 1A, entered the game having won the ISC South Division for the sixth year in a row. Janesville, rated No. 10, was the North Division champion.
Neither team had lost to an ISC team all season.
With the title of the absolute best team in the entire conference on the line, Colo-NESCO knew it had to step up its game. The Royals also wanted to avenge a 54-48 loss to the Wildcats last year, and take some positive momentum into the postseason after ending the 2017 regular season on a three-game losing skid.
Colo-NESCO came out attacking against Janesville’s pressure defense and the move paid off. The Royals took charge late in the third quarter, going on an 11-0 run that made the difference in a 51-40 victory.
“Every year we’ve played them it’s been really close — my sophomore year we went into double-overtime with them,” Colo-NESCO senior center Molly Barten said. “They won the volleyball state championship, so they’re athletic obviously. This game really helped us a lot going into the postseason. We know we can beat a good team, play at fast pace and finish shots under pressure.”
The Royals jumped out to a 20-13 lead after Rylee Purvis drained a 3-pointer late in the first quarter. Janesville came back with a 10-2 run to go in front when Lily Liekweg scored off a feed from Briana Baker-Bruce.
The two teams went back-and-forth until the final 2 ½ minutes of the third quarter. Chelsea Henze drilled a 3-pointer to put Colo-NESCO up 36-35 and the Royals never trailed again.
Barten hit a pair of baskets, then Purvis scored off a curl play to close out the third quarter. Purvis added two free throws a minute into the fourth quarter to push Colo-NESCO’s lead to 44-35.
“It was mostly rebounding,” Purvis said of the Royals’ big run. “In the first half we kind of were not the best, but we kind of regrouped in the locker room and were like OK, we’ve got to get more aggressive on the boards — offensive and defensive — and then driving. That was a key for us. Being aggressive to the basket and after we got fouled, making all of our free throws.”
Colo-NESCO ended up outrebounding Janesville, 30-26. The Royals were also much better from the line, converting 12 of 18 free throws to the Wildcats’ 3 of 10 showing.
Purvis finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds. Barten produced 14 points — 10 coming in the second half — and she added nine rebounds.
“I knew we needed to win this game so I thought — finish my shots and get the rebounds,” Barten said. “But I’ll give the credit to my team. They got good passes inside and everyone was great.”
Guard Lauryn Hill also helped set the tone for Colo-NESCO on both ends of the floor. Hill tallied 11 points and three assists in her battle with Janesville star Briana Baker-Bruce, who finished with 14 points and four assists, but was held to three points in the second half.
“Briana’s really fast,” Hill said. “She’s really athletic so that was hard. I just had to stay down on defense and move my feet as best I could.”
The victory put Colo-NESCO at 17-4. Janesville suffered just its second loss, going to 19-2.
Along with Baker-Bruce, Grace Hovenga and Kennedy Meister were the top Wildcat performers against the Royals. Hovenga nearly posted a double-double with nine points and 11 rebounds and Meister added eight points and rebounds apiece.
Colo-NESCO 51, Janesville 40
J 13 15 7 5 - 40
CN 20 9 13 9 - 51
Janesville (40) - Grace Hovenga 4-10 1-4 9, Kennedy Meister 4-9 0-0 8, Lily Liekweg 2-6 0-0 4, Alisa Bengen 1-2 1-2 3, Bailey Hoff 0-5 0-0 0, Kennedy Rieken 1-8 0-0 2, Briana Baker-Bruce 6-10 1-4 14, Taylor Denning 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 18-52 3-10 40. 3-point field goals (1): Baker-Bruce. Rebounds (26): Hovenga 11. Assists (12): Baker-Bruce 4. Steals (7): Hovenga 2, Baker-Bruce 2. Blocks (3): Meister 2. Fouls: 16.
Colo-NESCO (51) - Faith Vincent 1-8 4-5 6, Lauryn Hill 4-5 3-7 11, Emily Hostetler 0-2 0-0 0, Chelsea Henze 1-5 0-0 3, Rylee Purvis 6-12 3-4 17, Emma Stalzer 0-1 0-0 0, Molly Barten 6-8 2-2 14. Totals: 18-41 12-18 51. 3-point field goals (3): Purvis 2, Henze. Rebounds (30): Purvis 12. Assists (12): Henze 4. Steals (5): Vincent, Hill, Hostetler, Henze, Purvis. Blocks (1): Hostetler. Fouls: 12.