Colo-NESCO went through a lot of growing pains in 2018-19, thanks to inexperience and adjusting to a new coaching system.
The Royals finished 3-19 overall and 2-10 in the Iowa Star Conference South Division under first-year head coach Brandon Kelley. Kelley took over a team that lost 96 percent of the scoring output off last year’s 12-9 squad.
“It was a rebuilding year after losing six seniors last year and returning only one player that had any varsity experience,” Kelley said. “The team was young, but showed improvement as the year went on and showed some good progress at times this year.”
Colo-NESCO dropped all eight of its games before Christmas. The Royals fell to Collins-Maxwell (47-35), North Tama (75-38), Meskwaki (59-30), West Marshall (67-38), Clarksville (57-45), GMG (61-47), Baxter (53-42) and South Hardin (77-21).
To make matters worse, top outside shooting threat Brighton Clatt suffered a broken hand and was unable to compete after Christmas.
The Royals actually came out of the gate strong to start the second half of the season. They won their first two games after the break over Waterloo Christian (63-61 in three overtimes) and Collins-Maxwell (43-29).
But Colo-NESCO couldn’t keep it up. The Royals fell to North Tama (50-35), BCLUW (45-26), Dunkerton (79-32), Meskwaki (63-26), GMG (53-34), BGM (63-44), AGWSR (54-29), Roland-Story (75-42), Janesville (67-29) and Baxter (52-24) to close out the regular season.
“There were moments in the second half of the season where we played some good basketball,” Kelley said. “We need to learn how to be more consistent.”
The Royals took on Tri-County in the opening round of Class 1A district play on Feb. 13 at Colo. They nabbed a postseason win, downing the Trojans by a 61-46 score.
The following night, Colo-NESCO’s season came to a close in the district quarterfinals with a 63-20 loss to a Montezuma team that ended up placing fourth at state.
Colo-NESCO averaged 36.5 points and gave up 57.6 per game. The Royals shot 35 percent from the field, made 76 3-pointers at a 25-percent clip and converted 46 percent of their free throws.
Colo-NESCO averaged 23.2 rebounds and 5.6 assists and steals apiece per game. The Royals committed 19.2 turnovers per contest.
“We really need to improve in all areas,” Kelley said. “Shooting, passing, dribbling, rebounding and transition offense and defense are some areas that we will be working on in the offseason.”
Senior point guard Kelly Gray was the only returning player with varsity experience for Colo-NESCO.
Gray averaged 6.6 points, 4.4 assists, 3.0 rebounds and 1.9 steals. He made 14 3-pointers on the season.
Junior post Francis Bower was the leading scorer and rebounder for Colo-NESCO, putting up 11.8 points and 5.2 per game respectively. Bower shot 43 percent from the field.
Jack McKinney delivered 6.8 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game in his junior season. McKinney nailed 17 3-pointers.
Clatt averaged 9.0 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.5 steals with a team-best 19 3-pointers in his limited action as a junior.
Sophomores Trevor Burg and Tanner Ingle put up 3.1 and 2.5 points per game respectively.
Burg converted 16 3-pointers and also pulled down 2.3 rebounds per game. Ingle was second on the team in rebounding with 5.0 per game.
Seniors Keaton Schultz, Alex Dunahoo and Ethan Wilson, and sophomore Ryan Wonders all played at least 19 games for Colo-NESCO. Schultz totaled 21 points and made six 3-pointers, Dunahoo averaged 1.2 rebounds and compiled 17 points, Wilson tallied 11 points and nine rebounds on the season and Wonders averaged 1.5 rebounds and totaled 18 points.
Junior Luke Hill got in 12 games, sophomore Luke Reischauer eight and junior Shawn Cutler and freshman Kenny Cutler four apiece. Freshmen Andrew Grover and Ephram Muntz each played in two games and Bradley Thomas one.
The Royals will miss Gray, Schultz, Dunahoo and Wilson next season.
“Our seniors gave us everything that they had and were great leaders for us, Kelley said. “We will really miss their personalities on the court and in the locker room. Kelly played almost every minute of the season and played really good defense all year. Alex hadn’t been out for basketball for a couple years, but picked up on what we were trying do and was able to give us some good minutes. Ethan and Keaton gave us some good minutes off the bench.”
But Kelley is optimistic his team can make up big ground in 2019-20.
“I think we gained great experience with so many young guys getting a chance to play at the varsity level,” Kelley said. “If guys can really get into the gym and improve their shot and all around game and strength, I think we could contend for the South Conference title next year. We will need to find a point guard to replace Kelly.”