Veteran group leads Colo-NESCO to breakout season in boys basketball: Royals go from 8-13 to 15-8
The Colo-NESCO boys basketball team broke through in a big way during the 2021-2022 season.
After going a combined 14-51 over their previous three seasons the Royals posted their first winning season since 2017-2018 with a 15-8 record. They finished tied for second in the Iowa Star Conference South Division with an 8-4 conference record.
"I thought this group of kids accomplished some great things this year and had a really good season," Colo-NESCO head coach Brandon Kelley said. "It was the first winning season these guys have had in awhile and they were a great group of kids to coach."
The season started with Colo-NESCO looking like it had the previous three years. The Royals suffered a lopsided 61-29 loss to eventual ISC South champion Baxter.
But it didn't take long for the Royals to turn the tide.
They won their next four game — defeating Valley Lutheran (65-42), Riceville (73-53), Meskwaki (53-45) and North Tama (61-56). West Marshall snapped the Royal win streak, 57-49, in a non-conference rivalry game Dec. 11 at Colo.
Colo-NESCO came back to win its final three games before Christmas break. The Royals defeated GMG (69-55), Don Bosco (48-44) and Collins-Maxwell (52-40).
The win streak stretched to four games in the first game back from break as Colo-NESCO defeated BGM, 48-24. Baxter snapped the streak at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines Jan. 11, handing Colo-NESCO a 59-35 setback.
The Royals won at Valley Lutheran Jan. 17, 54-33. North Tama dealt them a 69-51 loss Jan. 21, but they bounced back with three wins to close out January by completing season sweeps over Meskwaki (48-30) and GMG (73-61) and defeating BCLUW (56-47).
February opened with the worst stretch of the season for Colo-NESCO. The Royals fell to Collins-Maxwell (52-48), Janesville (58-39) and Lynnville-Sully (58-32).
The rough stretch ended with a 77-41 victory over Melcher-Dallas Feb. 5. The Royals then won at AGWSR, 45-38, to close out the regular season.
Colo-NESCO opened 1A district play by avenging its loss to Collins-Maxwell with a 63-58 victory over the Spartans Feb. 14 at Martensdale. The Royals couldn't keep their season going past the next round though, losing to Martensdale St. Marys by a 50-34 margin.
"I think the biggest reason for our improvement was that everybody accepted their role on the team and really bought into what we were trying to do," Kelley said. "Our guys started to believe in themselves and believe that they should be able to win games and not just accept playing close games. As their confidence went up we kept improving."
The Royals were a strong defensive team that only allowed 49.8 points per game. They averaged 31 rebounds, 8.1 steals and 1.7 blocks per game.
On offense Colo-NESCO put up 52.3 points per game shooting 41.8 % from the field, 20.7 % from 3-point range and 52.3 % from the line. The Royals made 62 3-pointers and averaged 14.2 assists against 14.9 turnovers.
"I think our biggest strengths were our team defense and playing as a team on the offensive side of the ball," Kelley said. "Our post play on offense really led us on most nights and our guards did a good job of recognizing who was open and who to get the ball to. Our quickness and athletic ability allowed us to create some easy baskets off turnovers. Our biggest struggle was our outside shooting. We improved from last year in this area, but we still have a long way to go."
Sophomore forward Lucas Frohwein, senior center Andrew Tschantz and senior point guard Kenny Cutler set the pace for Colo-NESCO all season.
Frohwein averaged 17.1 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.7 steals. He shot 46 % from the field and 69.9 % from the line.
Tschantz was a breakout star despite being undersized in the middle at 6-feet, 1-inch tall. He averaged 11.3 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.1 steals and shot 55.8 % from the field.
Cutler didn't have his best shooting year, but he was outstanding at running the Royal offense. Cutler averaged 5.3 points, 6.7 assists, 3 rebounds and 1.7 steals.
Junior forward Nolan Smith gave Colo-NESCO a needed boost inside. Smith averaged 8.1 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.3 steals and shot 44.8 % from the field. Junior Spencer Hansen averaged 7.7 points and 3.7 rebounds and senior Bradley Thomas 3.8 points, 2.4 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.1 steals.
Seniors Nathan Oler, Andrew Grover and Braydn Carroll provided quality leadership off the bench. Sophomore Drew Banks and freshmen Breckin Clatt, Gannon Short, Lucas Daggett Christian Oswalt and Colton Niemeyer also contributed on the court during the season.
Losing Tschantz, Cutler, Thomas and the rest of the senior class will leave Kelley with some big pieces to replace next season.
"We had a big senior class who really contributed in many different areas to help us finish 15-8," Kelley said. "They were a very unselfish group who just wanted to win ball games and do whatever it took to win games."
But they got the program turned around and headed in the right direction. With the return of Frohwein, Smith and Hansen the Royals have strong enough building blocks to keep the positive momentum going in 2022-2023.
"I think we have the potential to improve on this year's record if we are willing to put in the work this summer," Kelley said. "We have a good group of guys coming back that played a lot this year and we have a good group of young guys who had a great JV season. If we can continue to work on our outside shooting and ball-handling, we should have a chance to compete for a conference championship."