Photo by Norv Coblentz
Your Prep Sports
MONTICELLO – With top-scorer Beau Cornwell fighting the flu and senior Ben Thompson battling a bum ankle West Branch needed somebody to step up in Monday’s postseason opener.
It was no surprise to West Branch coach Tom Burger who that player was.
Junior guard Brady Lukavsky scored a career-high 21 points to help West Branch advance with a 77-58 win over Bellevue in a Class 2A, District 8 quarterfinal in Monticello.
“That is one thing that you can always count on with that young man is that he’s going to give effort,” Burger said. “Whether it’s practice, cleaning up the locker room or selling popcorn it doesn’t matter he’s going to give an effort and I think it shows up day in and day out and he’s a great competitor.”
Lukavsky did more than just step up on Monday, he was pretty much perfect.
The junior guard didn’t miss a shot, hitting all eight of his field goal attempts, including three 3-pointers and was 2-of-2 at the free throw line.
“We played well as a team and shared the ball equally and that’s what made it happen,” Lukavsky said. “We moved the ball and got the ball inside-out and that got us open shots.”
The hot hand from Lukavsky helped West Brands (13-9) shoot 59 percent from the field and advance to the District 8 title game.
West Branch has won three of its last four games and will travel to sixth-ranked Cascade (20-1) on Thursday for an 8 p.m. tipoff in the district semifinal
“You always like to think that your team is playing well at the end of the year,” Burger said. “I think our kids like basketball and they like playing. They have could come in here and laid an egg and decide they didn’t want to come to practice tomorrow or know that Cascade is waiting on Thursday thinking why even waste two more days of practice but our kids are great competitors in every sport they do and it shows up.”
No Bear showed up more on Monday than Lukavsky.
The 5-foot-11 had four rebounds, three steals and two assists to go with his career-high 21 points.
It all came while he spent most of the game chasing Bellevue standout Cade Daugherty on the defensive end.
Daugherty had a game-high 33 to keep Bellevue (9-14) close for 28 minutes but Lukavsky made the 6-foot senior guard work for every one of them.
“I just tried to play defense really hard and that helps me get going on offense,” Lukavsky said. “I was able to get some layups and that helps.”
Unlike Daugherty, Lukavsky got plenty of help.
Cornwell shrugged off a slow start, scoring 22 of his team-high 29 points in the second half and Tanner Lukavsky had a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds.
“Cade got going for us but tonight we didn’t have enough help and West Branch had some guys step up to help Beau out,” Bellevue coach Chet Knake said. “We did a nice job on Beau until the fourth quarter. I thought we did a really nice job on him, the fourth quarter he got going but he had a supporting cast help him out the rest of the game.”
After three days with the flu Cornwell struggled early.
He had just one first-quarter point but the Lukavsky brothers combined for 11 in the first eight minutes to give West Branch an early 17-8 lead.
Brady Lukavsky hit a 3-pointer that beat the halftime buzzer to give West Branch a 35-29 halftime lead.
The 10 first-half points more than doubled the season average for Brady Lukavsky who had more scoreless games on the season (4) and games in double figures (2).
“With being sick the guys knew that they would have to step up,” Cornwell said. “I knew they would take on that challenge and be good with it.”
West Branch opened the second half on a 12-4 run that was capped by the third three of the game by Brady Lukavsky and led 53-49 after three quarters.
Bellevue got back into the game with a 10-0 run in the opening 95 seconds of the fourth quarter fueled by seven points from Daugherty.
Out of a timeout Cornwell stopped the run with back-to-back baskets in the paint as West Branch rattled off nine straight points to push the lead back to 62-49 with under four minutes to play.
“(Coach) Butch (Pedersen) said to find me in the middle and they would either collapse and that would open up guys like Brady or Tanner of they would stay out and I would take their big guy one-on-one,” Cornwell said. “That’s how it worked out.”
With Cornwell struggling with his outside shot following three days away from the gym Burger put the point guard in the post.
West Branch repeatedly found the 6-foot-2 guard in the middle of the Comets’ 3-2 zone and he hit 10-of-15 second half shots, most from inside 10 feet.
“It was definitely our thought to get him a touch inside and then move him back out, we wanted to get him some makes inside to get his shot going but we decided to keep him in there,” Burger said. “We started keeping our spacing, we stopped dribbling we started passing the ball and finding gaps and al of a sudden they don’t know what to do.
Bellevue (58) – Trey Daugherty 4-10 1-1 10, Paxton Felderman 0-3 0-0 0, Lucas tenant 1-3 0-0 2, Cade Daugherty 13-24 3-6 33, Conner Michels 2-5 1-1 5, Trevor Hager 3-6 0-1 6, Drew Mangler 0-1 0-0 0, Nathan Carter 1-1 0-1 2, Team 24-53 5-10 58.
West Branch (77) – Beau Cornwell 13-23 3-6 29, Brady Lukavsky 8-8 2-2 21, Brett Schiele 0-3 0-0 0, Tanner Lukavsky 6-11 1-2 14, Ben Thompson 3-6 2-3 8, Ted Bridges 2-3 0-1 5, Team 32-54 8-14 77.
3-point field goals – WB 5-15 (Cornwell 0-5, B. Lukavsky 3-3, Schiele 0-3, T. Lukavsky 1-2, Bridges 1-2); BEL 5-14 (T. Daugherty 1-3, Felderman 0-2, C. Daugherty 4-8, Michels 0-1). Rebounds – WB 31 (T. Lukavsky 11); BEL 29 (Hager 5). Turnovers – WB 8; BEL 14. Total fouls – WB 12; BEL 13. Fouled out – None. Technical fouls – None.