By Andrew Gogerty
This past Friday, I ran into a star player from the 2012 Colo-Nesco girls’ basketball team who graduated last May. After some small-talk about what she was studying at Iowa State and about the upcoming state tournaments, she told me five words about the 2013 Royals that have stuck in my head all week:
“I’m so proud of them.”
That “star player” from last year was Jessica Johnson, and she said those words to me as sincerely as anyone could have said them. After the final horn sounded today at Wells Fargo Arena, and the scoreboard read 60-43 in favor of Burlington Notre-Dame, those were the words that kept coming to my mind as well.
“I’m so proud of them.”
Colo-Nesco’s season came to an end today, but what a season it was. The Royals finished 23-3, bowing out to an extremely talented squad from Burlington. When I began doing research for my Girls State Tournament Preview, I knew they were either a) really good or b) that they had played inferior competition. After all, there are very few men’s collegiate teams that put up 90 points four times in one season, let alone a high school girls’ team, which is exactly what this potent bunch from Burlington Notre-Dame had done. Turns out, this team and this offense (and its defense) were the real deal. By halftime, they had already scored more points than the Royals usually give up for an entire game.
In the end, it was a 10-0 run at the end of the first half that ultimately did in the Royals. Colo-Nesco kept it close for most of the first half, trailing by just four points late into the second quarter. Then the Royals saw why the Nike’s are the top-scoring team in Class 1a as they went on their late scoring spurt to close out the quarter, taking a 37-23 lead into the locker room.
The shots just wouldn’t fall for the Royals for much of the afternoon. Every time it looked like Colo-Nesco could go on a run, the Nike’s would answer with a three-pointer or a steal and a lay-up. They will be a serious contender for the state title and, unfortunately, many of their star players will be back next season.
Speaking of next season, the Royals also have plenty to look forward to. The Royals return all but two players, including four of five starters. Shayla Dean, Caitlyn Riese, Shelby Anthony, and Madison Farren return as starters, and will give Colo-Nesco another solid chance at making the state tournaments, along with a talented bunch of reserves from this season. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the Royals ranked in the top 10 for most of next year.
For three seniors, today was the last time they will ever put on a Colo-Nesco basketball jersey. I think we lost to a better team today, so for me, that was the hardest part--watching the three seniors (Madison Eley, Ashlyn Eley, and Haley Stoeffler) in their final moments. I’ve enjoyed watching the Eley family play high school basketball ever since I was 9 years old, from Dwight’s days as a Nesco Royal, to their 3 kids who each had magnificent careers, ending with Madison’s appearance in the state tournament today. And Haley Stoeffler was as valuable to this team as anyone down the stretch of this season. Her outside shooting will be sorely missed next year. She was the leading scorer in today’s game, her final as a Royal.
It’s always sad when an exciting chapter of life comes to an end. This girls team provided a year of amazing moments for their families and fans and for themselves. Those memories can never be taken away and neither can the results of one of the finest seasons in Colo-Nesco basketball history. I really enjoyed watching this team play and I can’t wait for next season to start. I loved this team’s intensity, desire, heart, and character.
As the sun sets on this day, and another season of Royals basketball, I think all Royals fans would join me in saying:
“We’re so proud of you.”