Royal girls manage winning record in rebuilding year: C-N's eight-year run of conference titles ends
The Colo-NESCO girls’ basketball team may have seen its eight-year reign as Iowa Star Conference South Division champions come to an end in 2020-2021, but the Royals still posted a winning record.
Colo-NESCO entered the season with a lot of inexperience after losing its top six offensive players from a year ago, including South Division MVP Lauryn Hill and first-team all-conference pick Rylee Purvis. Leading returning scorer Ayvarie Bappe also participated in just one game this season.
Add on the COVID-19 factor, which hampered player development over the summer, and the Royals were bound to experience some growing pains.
But despite those they still ended up north of .500, going 11-9 overall and placing third behind 12th-ranked (Class 1A) Collins-Maxwell and 15th-ranked Baxter in the South Division with a 6-6 conference record.
“For one, I feel fortunate to be able to play this season,” Colo-NESCO head coach Wayne Cafferty said. “Last summer I wasn't sure we'd get to play and then I thought we'd be lucky if we got 15 games in. To play 20 games and have a winning season at 11-9 is ok.”
Cafferty said it was a big challenge getting the inexperienced players ready. With limited offseason time due to COVID and two players coming off knee injuries a lot of younger players needed as much time as possible to get ready.
But the Royals hung tough and gradually improved as the season progressed.
“We had some growth on the defensive end of the floor and learned where to find shots in the offense,” Cafferty said. “We were able to mix up defenses and make opponents work in their half-court offense.”
Colo-NESCO lost to West Marshall (42-30) and eventual ISC South Division champion Collins-Maxwell (59-31) in its first two games. Then the Royals reeled off seven-straight victories.
Colo-NESCO defeated Dunkerton (44-41), Martensdale St. Marys (46-35), GMG (47-37), North Tama (44-42), Meskwaki (47-33), Clarksville (42-34) and Tripoli (61-39) during its winning streak.
Baxter snapped the winning streak with a 54-34 victory over the Royals on Jan. 12 and Collins-Maxwell followed that with a 48-14 win over the Royals. Colo-NESCO defeated BGM on Jan. 19, 39-19, but lost to BCLUW two days later (44-29) then at home to GMG (46-32).
The Royals pounded Valley Lutheran 73-26 on Jan. 28, but lost to Meskwaki the next day, 43-33. Colo-NESCO earned another lopsided victory over Valley Lutheran to start February, 57-33.
Colo-NESCO put up a good fight against Baxter before losing 48-34 Feb. 5. The Royals closed the regular season the next day with a thrilling 41-40 victory over North Tama.
“We had a seven-game winning streak and six come-from-behind victories,” Cafferty said. “We played our best game against Clarksville before winter break.”
The Royals’ season came to a close in the first round of 1A regionals Feb. 11. They fell at home to Gladbrook-Reinbeck, 55-28.
As a team Colo-NESCO averaged 40.5 points shooting 31 % from the field, 22 % from 3-point range and 52 % from the line. The Royals gave up 40.7 points per game, averaged 19 turnovers and pulled down 29 rebounds a night.
Senior guard Jenna Banks and junior Izabell Voelker were the go-to players for the Royals.
Banks averaged 12.2 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.2 steals and 3.0 assists per game. She made 30 3-pointers and shot 64 % from the line.
“Jenna Banks had some big games and was willing to take the big shot or free throws in close games,” Cafferty said. “Jenna had a number of big games early in the year when we were trying to figure out who was going to make plays for us.”
Voelker put up 9.5 points, 2.4 steals and 1.8 assists per game. She led the Royals in 3-pointers with 42.
“Izzy Voelker made a number of big 3s throughout the year,” Cafferty said.
Senior McKenzie Niemeyer and junior Jenna Hill were Colo-NESCO's top post players.
Niemeyer averaged 7.0 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.3 assists and steals apiece. She shot 40 % from the field.
“McKenzie Niemeyer did a good job of fighting back to play after off season knee surgery,” Cafferty said. “We moved her to the post after three years as a guard and she accepted and improved in her new role.”
Hill tallied 5.8 points and 8.0 rebounds per game. She also averaged 1.8 steals and 1.4 assists.
“Jenna Hill did a good job on the defensive boards after missing last year due to hip surgery,” Cafferty said.
Emma Wilson was the other regular starter for the Royals. The senior averaged 3.0 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.7 assists and steals per game.
“Emma Wilson was our hardest worker and would do whatever she could to help the team,” Cafferty said. “She did a great job of face guarding the other team's best player when we ran our junk defenses and of being a great teammate.”
Sophomore Sophia Piziali was the top player off the bench for Colo-NESCO. She tallied 1.3 points and 2.0 rebounds per game.
“Sophia Piziali came on to give us some good minutes off the bench the last month of the season,” Cafferty said.
Sophomores Callie Kohlwes (17 steals), Riley Handsaker (28 rebounds and seven blocks) and juniors Shelby Perisho (14 rebounds), Hannah Jamison (three rebounds and two steals) and Taylor Cox (one steal) also made varsity contributions.
Colo-NESCO will lose Banks, Niemeyer and Wilson. The seven returning letterwinners will need to be winning to put in a lot of work over the summer to help get the Royals back to being contenders for the ISC South Division title in 2021-2022.
“The offseason will be very important for this group,” Cafferty said. “They will need to get into the gym to develop their skills so they will be ready to perform at a varsity level next year.”