The Montezuma Braves and Keota Eagles met in Wellman Thursday night for a highly anticipated rematch from their back-and-forth affair in January. The result was Montezuma duplicating their hard-fought win, relying on an explosive first half and tight defense for the 56-45 victory and the Class 1A District 11 Title.
The first quarter saw both defenses have their way, forcing several turnovers with sporadic shooting. Both teams had slight spurts towards the end of the quarter, but Monte had a 12-9 lead heading into the second.
That’s when Montezuma junior Dakota Strong caught fire, scoring the majority of his 19 first half points by lighting it up from behind the arc. The Braves’ defense continued to force several Keota mistakes, as Brody McKeag had five first half steals, a few of which led to easy buckets at the other end. Monte would close the half strong to take a 35-22 lead at the break.
The third quarter was intriguing, as Monte lost their shooting touch. Their defense, however, refused to let the Eagles climb back into the game. Keota’s biggest momentum switch came with about 1:30 to go in the third. Keota junior Cole Stout buried a three-pointer and drew a foul, completing a four-point play. Keota would ride that wave to cut the lead from 16 to 9 in a short period. But with 25 seconds to go, McKeag would get a steal and a layup on the other end, and after a quick Keota shot, Brave junior Carson Losure would make a layup at the buzzer to extend the lead to 13 after three.
The fourth quarter saw poor shooting by both sides, and Montezuma made free throws down the stretch to seal the 11 point victory.
The Braves were led by Strong who finished with 23 points. Brody McKeag had a very complete game, scoring 10 points, dishing out 7 assists, and snagging 7 steals. Logan Price had 10 points and 6 rebounds despite dealing with foul trouble in the first half. Carson Losure and Zach Townsend had 6. Townsend added a team-high 7 rebounds.
Keota had a good game from senior Zach Mousel, who had 16 points and three steals. Avery Conrad had a double-double with 12 points and 10 boards. Jacob Wickenkamp, who came in as the Eagles’ second leading scorer behind Mousel on the season, did not register a single point and only took a few shots in the game, but he did grab 9 rebounds and had a team-high four assists.
Keota’s season comes to an end at 17-7. The loss ends the high school careers of seniors Nate Sieren, Tyler Verstraete, Paden Uphold, Zach Mousel, Isaiah Hahn, and Dylan Burgdorf.
Montezuma is now 22-2 and will play for a trip to state on Saturday in Knoxville. Their opponent will be Grand View Christian, who is 24-1. GVC averages over 80 points per game, but only scored 58 in their four-point win over Colo-Nesco in the District 12 Final.
The game can be heard on 99.5 FM/740 AM KMZN, as well as the KMZN mobile app, and radiokmzn.com. The pregame will start at 6:45 for the 7 PM tip-off.