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Your Prep Sports
Seven games into the season West Branch didn’t exactly look like itself.
An early 3-4 record was a little out of character for a West Branch program that had won 14 or more games in six straight seasons but it was how the Bears got to 3-4 that was most uncharacteristic.
A team that had gained a reputation as one of the toughest to score on in Class 2A under head coach Jarod Tylee suddenly was giving up points in bunches.
West Branch allowed an average of 57.3 points per game during its 3-4 start, giving up more than 50 five times during that stretch.
To put that in perspective, West Branch had allowed more than 50 points in a game 12 times in 48 games the previous two seasons.
The Bears allowed more than 70 points twice in that stretch, the first time an opponent had gone over 70 on West Branch since 2011.
“We weren’t playing defense the way that we are used to playing defense here,” Tylee said. “That was something that took some time for us.”
It took time but West Branch has looked like vintage West Branch the past few weeks.
West Branch (11-5) has won eight of its last nine games and its no secret what has been behind the turnaround.
The Bears are holding teams to 39 points per game over the last nine games and have allowed more than 50 points just once during that stretch.
“That’s all we’ve been working on is defense, defense, defense,” said West Branch freshman guard Sasha Koenig. “Our last few games we’ve been playing well defensively and it’s coming together.”
There are some reasons behind the early defensive numbers.
West Branch starts a pair of freshmen guards in Koenig and Taya Young and have some inexperience in the post.
A young lineup featuring some strong offensive teams early in Wilton (76 points), 2A No. 6 Cascade (73 points) and 2A No. 7 Regina (53 points) made for some tough nights on defense.
It also provided some valuable lessons.
“We are definitely getting better defensive,” West Branch senior Tatum Koenig said. “We have improved all around and I still think we can get better but we are playing better and its because of our defense.”
Over the last nine games West Branch has held eight opponents under their season average.
The Bears held Mid-Prairie to a season-low 22 points, held 3A No. 11 Camanche 17 points below its season average and kept 2A No. 10 Bellevue nine points from reaching its average.
Tylee deflected the defensive credit to assistant coach Rick Sexton who comes up with scouting reports on opponents.
“It’s a credit to our assistant coach Rick Sexton, he puts together our scouting report every game and I just told them when we execute what that guy puts on paper we are pretty good,” Tylee said. “It’s to his credit because he puts the time in and dissects the film and then the credit goes to our kids for executing it.”
Add another to the growing list of career achievements for Ashley Joens.
With 29 points in a win over Cedar Rapids Jefferson last week Joens surpassed Virginia Johnson to become the all-time leading scorer in City High history.
Joens leads the state in scoring at 29.6 points per game this season, has scored at least 21 in every game and now has 1,854 points in her career.
Over the last week West High has beaten the No. 10 team in the state and fallen to Illinois power Bolingbrook, defending state champion West Des Moines Valley and top-ranked City High.
Things don’t get a whole lot easier the next few days for the third-ranked Women of Troy.
West High hosts second-ranked Cedar Falls on Friday and travels to Illinois to face the state’s third-ranked team Montini Catholic (25-2).
“We have a pretty tough schedule but we wouldn’t want it any other way,” West High senior Logan Cook said. “Hopefully this prepares us for a state run.”
West Branch senior Tatum Koenig had 22 points, seven rebounds and seven assists in a 54-43 win over Bellevue.
Ashley Joens had 29 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists and six steals in an 85-49 win over Cedar Rapids Jefferson.
Regina senior Mary Crompton had 23 points, six rebounds, six steals and four assists in a 71-60 win over Mid-Prairie.
West High junior Lauren Zacharias had 10 points, eight assists, six rebounds and three steals in a 66-59 loss to West Des Moines Valley.
Regina junior Alex Wiese had 27 points and 11 rebounds in a 75-61 loss to City High.