By Travis Hines
Central Iowa Press
COLO - After a three-game lull, it looks like the North Tama defense is back to where it wants to be.
Colo-NESCO would certainly say so.
The Redhawks smothered the Royals early and kept them under wraps late, taking a 39-30 victory on Friday night in Iowa Star Conference girls' basketball play.
North Tama (13-1, 11-1) utlized a full-court press and a packed-in 2-3 zone to stymie the Royals (10-6, 9-3) for nearly the entire evening. Colo-NESCO had just one first-quarter point and only six by halftime before scoring 24 on the other side of intermission.
The Class 1A No. 11 Redhawks had allowed over 40 points - including 71 in a loss to Tripoli - in each of their last three games after allowing just one 40-plus point game in their first 10.
"Great with the defense. We talked about that as a focus," said North Tama head coach Irv Laube. "I think that's been the thing the last few games that's been missing. We've been getting wins - other than Tripoli - but the defense wasn't there.
"We've been giving easy looks. The last few times we've played, teams have gotten all their baskets in the lane."
Open shots in deep near the basket were few and far between for the Royals, who didn't get their first field goal until Haley Stoeffler's 3-pointer at the 5:23 mark of the second quarter.
With the Redhawks' zone making life difficult inside, Colo-NESCO resorted to firing up 3s, often times from well beyond the arc.
"Colo-NESCO had open shots they weren't able to make tonight," said Laube. "We said we don't have to extend past that three-point arc. The girls executed it very well."
The Royals also struggled against the North Tama zone press, turning it over a number of times which led to easy Redhawk scores.
"It keeps them from getting into a rhythm," Laube said of his press.
Colo-NESCO was able to keep North Tama's leading scorer, Kailey Kladivo, in check, but the rest of the Redhawks were their to pick up the slack.
Amanda Howard tallied 10 points and Allison Zobel eight. Kladivo didn't have a basket until right before halftime, but still finished with nine points.
"All the other girls stepped up," Laube said.
The Royals' first-half troubles bled into the second half, but they were able to close the gap to seven points with under 2 minutes to play thanks to a 9-2 run.
A pair of free throws from Colo-NESCO's Jessica Johnson, who finished with six points, brought the score to 35-28 with 1:59 left on the clock, but the Royals weren't able to inch any closer after a free throw from Erin Herink and a bucket by Howard.
Both teams return to action on Tuesday with conference bouts. The Redhawks will host GMG while Colo-NESCO will hit the road to faceoff with Meskwaki.