Your Prep Sports
SOLON – The Solon game plan entering its non-conference contest with former Eastern Iowa Hawkeye conference rival West Branch on Thursday was to stop Tatum Koenig.
The plan worked – in a way.
Koenig had season-lows in field goal attempts and points, failed to crack 20 points for the first time this season and snapped a string of consecutive 30-point outings while working against a box-and-one defense.
The West Branch senior also played perhaps her most efficient and dominate game of the year.
Koenig scored a game-high 17 points and was the catalyst for a harassing defense that led to 38 Solon turnovers as West Branch rolled to a 49-35 win over the Spartans in Solon.
“She finds ways to affect the game no matter what it is,” West Branch coach Jarod Tylee said. “Obviously teams are going to key in on her and try to take her away to me the amazing thing is how she continues to be effective when they are sending two and three people at her.”
Despite being held 11 points below her season average on Thursday Koenig controlled the game from her point guard spot.
The 5-foot-7 senior had seven steals consistently harassed Solon ball handers as the Bears forced at least nine turnovers in each quarter.
Solon (2-4) shot 44 percent from the floor but West Branch limited the Spartans to 32 field goal attempts while improving to 3-2 with its second straight win, which gave Tylee his 100th career victory.
“Lately we’ve really been emphasizing defense and I think we just have to play better defense to win games,” Koenig said. “Today I think we were much better overall.”
After scoring 34 and 30 points in her previous two games, Koenig didn’t equal her lofty offensive production of late on Thursday but had her most efficient outing of the season.
Koenig was 7-of-10 from the field, including both 3-point attempts, and made seven straight field goals after missing her first shot.
She also had six assists as West Branch shot 45 percent from the floor.
“A team hasn’t really done a box-in-one on us yet so my goal was just to find open players,” Koenig said. “That’s what I was really trying to do tonight.”
West Branch never trailed on Thursday as Koenig scored the Bears’ first seven points that led to a 11-5 first quarter lead.
Koenig had six points in the second quarter and younger sister Sasha Koenig had a pair of 3-pointers in the final 4:13 of the first half as West Branch took a 29-13 halftime lead.
That was more than enough the way the Bears defended on Thursday, using a variety of different defense that all relied on heavy pressure on the ball.
“That’s what we talk about, we want to be solid, make the dribbler work, help if we need to and just keep everything in front,” Tylee said. “We don’t want to do anything flashy we just want to play good defense and I thought tonight for the most part we did.”
Solon shot nearly 50 percent after halftime and outrebounded West Branch by 18 but couldn’t overcome a season-high 38 turnovers.
“It is a combination of what they were doing and us not taking care of the ball,” Solon coach Lisa Bishop said. “Even their half-court defense was in our face and we are just young and inexperienced.”
Tatum Koenig was the only West Branch player in double figures though nine Bears scored in the win.
Sasha Koenig fnished with eight points, Mackenzie Heise had six and Taylor Thein added five.
“We came into this game knowing we had to work on things to get better,” Koenig said. “I think we improved on all aspects tonight.”
Jenna LaDage led Solon with 19 points while Gabby Marty added six points and 10 rebounds.
Bishop was pleased with the defensive job her team did on Tatum Koenig in the box-in-one though the result wasn’t enough to earn a win.
“That was my positive, I felt like for the most part we did a really good job of executing the box-and-one,” Bishop said. “We held Tatum under her average so I was happy with how we executed that.”
West Branch 11 18 15 5 – 49
Solon 5 8 11 11 – 35
Solon (35) – Saige Hauer 1-4 2-2 4, Haley Melchert 1-1 0-0 2, Gabby Marty 2-9 2-5 6, Brianna Smith 2-5 0-1 5, Jenna LaDage 4-7 0-0 10, Erin Kerkhoff 3-5 0-1 6, Abby Smith 1-1 0-0 2, Team 14-32 4-9 35.
West Branch (49) – Abbey Fryauf 1-2 0-0 2, Riley Vaughan 1-4 0-0 2, Kaiya Luneckas 1-3 0-1 2, Tatum Koenig 7-10 1-2 17, Bridget Buol 2-3 0-1 4, Taylor Thein 2-7 0-0 5, Taya Young 0-7 3-4 3, Sasha Koenig 3-14 0-1 8, Mackenzie Heise 3-4 0-0 6, Team 20-44 4-9 49.
3-point field goals – SOL 3-9 (Hauer 0-1, B. Smith 1-4, LaDage 2-4); WB 5-24 (Vaughan 0-3, T. Koenig 2-2, T. Thein 1-5, Young 0-4, S. Koenig 2-10). Rebounds – SOL 40 (Marty 10); WB 22 (Luneckas 5). Turnovers – SOL 38; WB 13. Total fouls – SOL 16, WB 13. Fouled out – SOL (B. Smith). Technical fouls – None.