Girls Basketball Notebook: West Branch Navigating Challenging 2018 Schedule

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Photo by Jeff Yoder

Ryan Murken

Your Prep Sports

With the holiday season fast approaching there are children everywhere counting down the days to Christmas.  

West Branch head coach Jarod Tylee has his own countdown to the holiday break going this week.

Tylee and the Bears have navigated a challenging pre-holiday schedule with a 7-2 record and put themselves in position to contend for the River Valley South Division title in 2019.

Now the Bears need a little rest and its on the horizon.  

Class 2A No. 14 West Branch (7-2) caps a four-game road stretch with trips to West Liberty (2-6) on Tuesday and Camanche (3-4) on Friday before the much-needed holiday break.

“We’ve had a tough schedule to this point but our conference is tough, that’s what it is and the girls have handled it well,” Tylee said. “We have a couple of more games before we get to break so we just have to get through one more week.”

The Bears have been busy the past month opening the season with three consecutive three-game weeks.

By Friday West Branch will have played half of its 22 regular season games in a stretch of 25 days that began on November 27.

The early season schedule hasn’t just been busy it has been challenging.

West Branch went through the gauntlet of its schedule last week finishing a five-game in 10-day stretch with a win at Class 4A Clear Creek Amana on Saturday.

The stretch included a pair of non-conference contests against larger school competition, road games at top-10 RVC North Division opponents Cascade and Bellevue and a win over South Division co-leader Wilton.

“I definitely think our legs we a little tired (on Saturday) but we fought through it,” West Branch junior Kaiya Luneckas said. “We will know in the future how to handle these types of situations.”

West Branch led Clear Creek Amana by 10 points at the half, watched the Clippers rally tie to the score at 37 and then made plays late in a 55-45 win.

“I didn’t feel tired at the beginning but after a while that quick first step wasn’t there,” West Branch sophomore guard Sasha Koenig said. “We had some tired legs that we started to feel in the second half and came out and had a rough third quarter. We got our heads back in it.”

West Branch held off Wilton 40-36 at home on Tuesday travelled and arrived home after 11 p.m. on Friday following a 46-40 loss at Bellevue.

The Bears did just enough on Saturday afternoon to get back on track against Clear Creek Amana and now has two more road trips to set up a happy holiday break.

“I felt like times we looked sluggish and I don’t want to make Friday’s game an excuse but we looked sluggish and I’m glad we did enough to win the game,” Tylee said. “The more important thing is the way we responded in the fourth quarter. I’m more pleased about that.”  

Rankings Update: For the second year in a row City High used a December win over cross-town rival to vault into the top spot in the Class 5A rankings.

City High jumped from second to first in the latest 5A rankings released last Thursday by the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union.

West High slipped two spots from sixth to eight in the 5A rankings while West Branch debuted in the 2A rankings at No. 14.

Unbeatens: Only four teams remain unbeaten in Class 5A and three of them are in the same Mississippi Valley Conference division.

MVC Mississippi Division squads City High (6-0), Cedar Rapids Washington (6-0) and Cedar Falls (7-0) join Pleasant Valley (8-0) as the lone remaining unbeaten 5A teams.

City High hosts Cedar Falls on January 22 and travels to Cedar Rapids Washington on February 5.

Performances of the Week: Regina junior Sam Greving had 23 points, 11 rebounds and five steals in a 64-43 win over Durant.

Liberty High junior Cora Saunders had 23 points and four rebounds in a 64-49 loss to Western Dubuque.

West High senior Cailyn Morgan had 22 points, nine rebounds and four steals in a 67-51 win over Linn-Mar.  

Clear Creek Amana junior Karsyn Stratton had 14 points, seven rebounds and four assists in a 55-45 loss to West Branch.

City High junior Rose Nkumu had 25 points, eight rebounds, six steals and four assists in a 74-46 win over Dubuque Wahlert.