BY ANDREW GOGERTY
WOW. WOw. Wow.
Trailing by 1 point, with 15 seconds left, and the conference championship on the line, Royals point guard Shayla Dean advanced the ball up the court, split two defenders, and drove the ball inside the lane, laying it off the glass and into the hoop with 5 seconds to go, giving the Royals the game-winning basket in one of the most sensational girls high school basketball games I’ve ever seen.
This game had it all. #8 Meskwaki versus #9 Colo-Nesco. Conference title on the line. 20th win of the season on the line. A hostile environment (to say the least)! The fourth quarter alone saw a four-point play, three ties, and NINE lead changes. It was one of the top three or four Royals girls basketball games I’ve ever watched, ranking right near the top with the 1989 substate win over South Hamilton and some of the Jodi Beavers, Collins-Maxwell-Baxter slugfests.
Colo-Nesco led 14-11 after the first quarter, blossoming the lead to as high as 16 points with two minutes to play in the first half. Haley Stoeffler continued her torrid shooting, scoring 11 crucial points in the first half. But it was the play of Meskwaki’s Dia Keahna that nearly did in the Royals. Keahna had 16 points in the first half and her three-point shooting, along with Tiana Thompson’s brought the Warriors all the way back in the second half. I don’t know how many three-pointers Meskwaki hit, but it had to be something like 12 out of 20. THEY COULD NOT MISS.
Meskwaki tied the game with 30 seconds left in the third quarter and took its first lead with 7:30 to go in the ball game. As mentioned earlier, it was back-and-forth from there, with one of the biggest plays coming with 1:30 to go in the game. The Royals were up by one, 62-61, when Keahna hit another three-point basket, AND WAS FOULED. She made the free throw to complete the four-point play (she finished with either 29 or 33 points) and the Royals were down three. Colo-Nesco trimmed the lead with 1 minute to play, 65-64 before Meskwaki and the Royals traded baskets again with Meskwaki leading 67-66. After fouling with 15 seconds to go, Meskwaki missed the front end of a one and one. That’s when Dean drove the length of the floor for the game-winner with 5 seconds left. On the inbounds play, Meskwaki turned the ball over, stepping on the out of bounds line with three seconds to go. Madison Farren then made one of two free throws, giving the Royals a two-point lead with 2 seconds to go. Meskwaki couldn’t get a shot off; Game over. Royals win 69-67.
Caitlyn Riese had one of the finest games of her career, scoring 18 points, many of which came during that ferocious fourth quarter. Shayla Dean, a 5'2 sophomore, continues to play with the heart and leadership of a 6' senior. The Royals finish as Conference Champs, ending the regular season with a record of 20-2.
There’s not much time for celebration, though. A new season starts next week with tournament action beginning February 12th in Colo. The Royals need three wins to advance to the state tournament. If the Royals advance to the substate game, the likely opponent would be…Meskwaki.