The Colo-NESCO girls’ basketball team claimed another conference championship and came just one step shy of making it to state in 2018-19.

The Royals won their seventh Iowa Star Conference South Division title in a row, going a perfect 9-0. They finished 19-4 overall, ending the regular season ranked No. 13 in Class 1A and advancing to the regional finals for the first time since 2015.

“The season really went about the way I expected it would,” Colo-NESCO head girls’ basketball coach Wayne Cafferty said. “At times our defense helped us overcome our inconsistency on offense, and when our offense did kick in, we showed some signs of being explosive in the post and the perimeter.”

Colo-NESCO rolled through most of the regular season, only losing one of its first 17 games. That setback was a 51-43 loss to ISC North Division champion and 1A state qualifier Clarksville on Dec. 10.

The Royals opened with a 35-27 rivalry win over West Marshall, then whipped ISC South Division runner-up Collins-Maxwell (67-44), crushed North Tama (60-29) and won a close one at Meskwaki (61-57) leading up to the Clarksville game. After that loss, they regrouped to whip GMG (67-27), Baxter (66-41) and South Hardin (72-18) in their final games before Christmas.

After the break, Colo-NESCO crushed Waterloo Christian, 83-21, and held off a competitive Collins-Maxwell team by a 49-40 score. The Royals then scored victories over North Tama (49-25), BCLUW (42-33), Dunkerton (66-49), Meskwaki (48-37), GMG (72-29) and BMG (57-34).

Senior guard Faith Vincent became the fourth 5-on-5 player at Colo-NESCO to reach 1,000 points for her career in the win over Meskwaki.

The regular season ended with Colo-NESCO facing four powerful opponents in Martensdale St. Marys, AGWSR, Roland-Story and Janesville.

Colo-NESCO took down Martensdale St. Marys by a 52-38 score. AGWSR and Roland-Story both got the better of the Royals, handing them respective 51-33 and 43-26 setbacks.

But Colo-NESCO came back to finish the regular season by defeating a ranked Janesville team on the road, 67-59.

“I felt our wins over Martensdale St. Marys and Janesville were our biggest wins of the year,” Cafferty said.

In 1A regional play, Colo-NESCO earned hard-fought victories over Paton-Churdan and Collins-Maxwell to reach the regional finals. The Royals downed Paton-Churdan by a 61-50 score and defeated Collins-Maxwell on a buzzer-beater by Rylee Purvis, 42-40, to advance to the regional finals.

In the regional final game, Colo-NESCO had no answers for No. 8 CAM. The Royals fell behind 16-0 and never got going in a 66-29 loss to end the season.

“It was a good season — going 19-4 and winning the Iowa Star South for the seventh-straight year,” Cafferty said. “I thought Faith had a good senior season and I felt that the juniors raised their competitive level and stepped up in a number of games.”

As a team, Colo-NESCO averaged 54.2 points and gave up 40.4 per game. The Royals shot 39.3 percent from the field, made 123 3-pointers at a 28-percent rate, shot 58.6 percent from the line and averaged. 13.6 assists.

On defense, Colo-NESCO averaged an impressive 14.7 steals and tallied 1.6 blocks per game. The Royals also averaged 31.1 rebounds, including 9.4 offensive boards per game.

Vincent was the heart and soul of Colo-NESCO. The unanimous all-ISC elite pick finished her career as the school’s all-time leader in 3-pointers with 177, and she ended up third on the all-time scoring chart with 1,116 points.

“Faith will be missed,” Cafferty said. “Her solid play at both of ends of the court and leadership were instrumental in our success the last four years.”

In 2018-19, Vincent averaged 13.0 points, 4.9 steals, 4.3 assists and 3.4 rebounds. She hit 50 3-pointers at a 33-percent clip and shot 36-percent overall from the field and 80 percent from the line.

Purvis and guard Lauryn Hill did an outstanding job complementing Vincent during their junior seasons. Purvis joined Vincent as a unanimous-pick on the all-ISC South Division first team and Hill made the second team.

Purvis averaged 11.7 points, a team-high 6.2 rebounds, 2.3 steals and 1.8 assists. She shot 40 percent from the field, 60 percent from the line and made 40 3-pointers at a 31-percent clip.

“Rylee showed the ability to hit the big shot,” Cafferty said. “(She) could develop into a big time scorer next year if she puts the time in working on her game.”

Hill put up 8.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 3.3 steals per game. She shot 46 percent from the field.

“Lauryn finished the year strong and really improved her passing and the ability to take care of the ball over the course of the year,” Cafferty said.

Four other juniors — Emma Stalzer, Gracie Kettwig, Emmy Hostetler and Megan Carlson — were valuable regular contributors for the Royals.

Stalzer and Kettwig were both strong presences inside for the Royals.

Stalzer averaged 7.3 points and 4.4 rebounds and she shot 47 percent from the field. Kettwig put up 5.0 points and 3.0 rebounds per game and she led the team in field-goal accuracy at 53.5 percent.

Hostetler averaged 3.0 points and 4.4 rebounds. Carlson put up 3.7 points and 2.5 rebounds per game and she made 14 3-pointers and shot 41 percent from the field and 68 percent from the line.

Sophomore McKenzie Niemeyer was also a varsity regular. Niemeyer averaged 1.6 points and rebounds apiece, plus 1.0 steal per game.

Juniors Allie Britten and Emily Brinkman, and sophomores Ayvarie Bappe, Jenna Banks and Emma Wilson all saw some playing time as well for the Royals. Claire Skinner was the only other senior besides Vincent on the team, but she was injured and forced to sit out the season.

Losing Vincent will hurt, but Colo-NESCO figures to be right back in the hunt for another ISC South Division title in 2019-20.

“We return seven out of our top eight, so we return a lot of experience,” Cafferty said. “The key will be how much time the girls put in to develop their individual and team skills.”