Keota has nearly cruised through the South Iowa Cedar League and continued that run on the Class 1A regional tournament Friday.
The Eagles used a strong inside game to defeat North Mahaska 64-45.
Keota shot 47 percent form the field and outrebounded North Mahaska 34-18. The Eagle defense limited North Mahaska to just two offensive rebounds.
North Mahaska coach Jeff Phillips said before the game that his team would need to hit shots early to compete, but Keota thwarted those efforts and two free throws were all the Warhawks managed while Keota scored 16 for a 16-2 lead after one period.
“We talked about that before the game started,” said Phillips. “I told the guys to go and shoot the shot, ‘You have been hitting shots well and they will fall.’ When they didn’t fall we got flustered.
“Typically we handle pressure pretty well, but tonight we had some kids didn’t. They shot well and we didn’t.”
The woes continued throughout the half with North Mahaska managing just eight points in the half. Senior Connor Hehli had just three rebounds and four points to lead the way for the Warhawks in the half. Junior Jakob Bortell also had three rebounds.
North Mahaska senior Trent Roose was left scoreless in the first half with several of his shots missing the mark as the Keota pressure defense kept hands in his face
While Luke Lyle is the Keota leader in steals with his quickness, it was junior Nate Owen who benefitted grabbing six away from the Warhawks.
“I told them that when you go to the middle of the floor be ready for Lyles,” said Phillips. “He will come right at it. You have to make crisp passes and we didn’t do that.”
Hehli, who is second in the state in blocks and recorded a double-double in nearly every game this season, left the game midway through the third quarter with a strained shoulder. Phillips said Hehli had been injured for the past several games, but tried to play though it. Hehli ended the game with four points, three rebounds, a steal, assist and a block. Roose was able to get North Mahaska rolling when his long ball began to fall from the corner. Roose drained four treys to finish with 12 points.
“Trent Roose and Connor Hehli, our two seniors, were great,” said Phillips. “Trent Roose, this is his fourth year of playing organized basketball. He has just gotten better and better. When he gets his shot on he can really shoot the basketball. In the first half he just couldn’t get it to hit.
“Connor Hehli had a tremendous senior season. He is second in the whole state in blocked shots. I told him, ‘you had a great season. These teams respected you. They had to game plan for you.’ Our other guys usually pick up the slack and they just couldn’t do it tonight.”
Roose helped spark a bit of a comeback for North Mahaska. The Warhawks were down 31 points, but was able to cut it down to the final of 19. The effort drew the praise of their coach. North Mahaska played mainly junior varsity players in the final three minutes.
“I told the guys that that is a great judge of character when you keep battling and you hit the floor and you get back up harder than when you hit that is just a true test of your character,” said Phillips. “Even if you know the outcome may already be decided. You just kept battling. That’s the way it should be.”
Freshmen Brandt Fleener and Milan DeJong were second and third respectively in scoring behind Roose with nine and seven points. Fleener led the team in rebounding with four.
Kolton Greiner led all scorers with 22 points. Lyle and Owen each had 12 points and seven rebounds. Owen finished with six steals.
Keota will play Montezuma at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at BGM.