By Travis Hines
Central Iowa Press
COLO - North Tama put Colo-NESCO in a box, and the Royals just didn't have enough strength to punch their way out.
The Redhawks used a big third quarter run to pad their lead to nearly 20 points, and then withstood the Royals' fourth-quarter push to take a 57-51 decision in Iowa Star Conference boys' basketball action in a tilt featuring a pair of ranked teams.
The win keeps Class 1A No. 6 North Tama (11-2, 9-2) just a game back from conference leader No. 7 Don Bosco and knocks No. 10 Colo-NESCO (13-2, 10-2) back into a tie for second.
A 13-2 run by the Redhawks that spanned 3 minutes early in the third quarter gave them an 18-point advantage against a Royals team that isn't built to come from behind with only one consistent scorer and a lack of 3-point shooting threats.
Colo-NESCO managed to claw back to within five points with under 90 seconds to play, but couldn't narrow the gap even though North Tama missed the front-end of three consecutive one-and-ones.
"We want to control pace," said Royals head coach Pat Wynja. "Usually, we want that score to be in the 40s. Tonight, they got hot early, and we had to come from behind, which we really haven't had to do much (this year)."
It was the Redhawks' Brendon Boerm that did most of the damage early, scoring 14 points before halftime and finishing with a game-high 19.
"He's been shooting the ball really, really well the second half of the year. "He's kind of been the guy that's hitting those jumpers for us right now," said North Tama head coach Brandon Clubb. "We've kind of fed off him."
But Boerm didn't have to carry the whole scoring load as Lucas Hefty and Mitchell Boerm both chipped in with 14 points apiece. Cade Isenhower added seven.
"We've got maybe five guys that can score 15 a night if we need them to," said Clubb, including his fifth starter, Tyler Cizek, who netted three points on the night, in the mix.
"It's such a luxury to have that. It's tough to guard."
That luxury isn't afforded to Colo-NESCO, with star forward Brandon Eley doing the lion's share of scoring, though North Tama managed to limit him to 16 points, two below his season average.
"Any shot he makes, we really wanted it to be a tough shot," said Clubb. "He's going to hit shots, and you've got to hope it's not all of them."
Weston Neuendorf had nine points, and it was his 3-pointer with 1:26 to play that brought the Royals to within five.
Colo-NESCO couldn't take advantage of the Redhawks' struggles at the foul line though as the Royals turned it over and missed a pair of 3-pointers as North Tama came up empty on three straight trips to the charity stripe.
"It was one of those situations where they made a run," said Clubb, "and we had enough cushion. We withstood the run and did what we needed to do."
Despite a loss to the conference leading Dons on Tuesday, it looks as though the Redhawks may be rounding into form after getting a late start to the basketball season thanks to the school's state-title run in football.
North Tama, whose five starters were all major contributors to the football team, had just seven practices as a team leading up to their one-point loss to the Royals on Dec. 3.
"And for us to be that close the first time was awesome for us," said Clubb. "We were really prepared this time. Xs and Os-wise and even physically.
"We're in basketball mode now."