Photo by Norv Coblentz
Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – One mark of a star player is performing well with the game on the line and Regina junior guard Masen Miller met that challenge against rival West Branch on Tuesday.
Miller scored 13 of his team-high 22 points in the fourth quarter as Regina withstood a comeback by the Bears to prevail 63-55 at the Regina gym.
Miller made all eight of his free throw attempts in the fourth quarter, and he also drained a key 3-point basket that expanded Regina’s lead to 49-42 with 4 minutes left to play.
“In the fourth quarter, it definitely felt like I got more aggressive when we were up and they had to foul,” Miller said. “I just tried to get by guys and get to the rack, and then if they do double, then kick it to my teammates.”
Regina has won three games in a row against West Branch and eight of the last 11 games in the series. The Regals improved to 9-2 overall, while West Branch fell to 10-3 under first-year coach Jason Kern.
Regina led 29-19 at halftime, but Regina head coach Jared Galpin assumed that West Branch would make a run, which it did by trimming the deficit to two points at 34-32 late in the third quarter.
Regina then relied on Miller’s accuracy from the free throw line in the fourth quarter to secure the victory.
“We knew they were going to make a run and they did,” Galpin said of West Branch. “They got it two and we just kind of withstood that and just kind of slowly built it back up. I thought offensively in the first half we were very disciplined and patient to get the shots that we wanted we wanted to get. We guarded fairly well, had some break downs here and there.
“In the second half, we kind of took some quick shots, quicker shots than I would have liked, especially when we had a lead. And then we kind of settled down and got ourselves to the free throw line and just slowly built the lead.”
Regina sophomore forward Ashton Cook complemented Miller in scoring with 20 points. The 6-foot-5 Cook scored Regina’s first eight points in the game, including making back-to-back 3-point baskets.
“We want to get Cook involved in every game early because I think he’s matchup nightmare for the fact that he can play inside and out,” Galpin said. “He kind of got himself going early and that’s just big. We’re looking to go inside because he’s so versatile.
“As a sophomore, he’s just kind of growing into his role and what he’s able to do and he’s continuing to get better and doing a good job.”
Cook praised his teammates for getting him open looks. He also liked Regina’s unselfishness on offense.
“My teammates did a real good job of kicking and finding me in the three and also in the post, so that helped,” Cook said. “I felt like we did a really good job of passing general.”
Cook entered Tuesday’s game having made just 3-of-14 shots from 3-point range. He nearly matched that total in the first quarter.
It’s always been part of my game in the past,” Cook said of shooting 3-pointers. “It’s kind of been struggling recently, but I feel like I’m getting better at it.”
Senior Beau Cornwell led West Branch in scoring with 24 points, but junior Trey Eagle helped keep the Bears close down the stretch by scoring eight of his 17 points in the fourth quarter.
“We were trying to get it to him where he’s good at right there in the paint area,” Kern said of the 6-1 Eagle. “He was aggressive in taking it to the rim and got to the line a couple times. He really made plays happen.”
Kern was proud that his team battled back in the second half, but he wasn’t pleased with its shot selection.
“The kids never gave up and that’s how we play,” Kern said. “We just have to take care of business more. We’ve got to take it to the rim more. We settled for too many threes.”
Galpin, meanwhile, felt confident in the fourth quarter with Miller getting to the free throw line. Miller entered Tuesday’s game shooting just 64.0 percent from the free throw line, but it was hard to tell as he made 9-of-10 free throws.
Miller missed his first free throw attempt in the game and then made nine in a row.
“Teams are obviously going to try and shut him out and he’s a hard guard,” Galpin said. “He can put the ball on the floor and he’s great around the perimeter. He’s a smart player so he’s going to get himself to the line.”
West Branch 13 6 15 17 – 55
Regina 15 14 9 25 – 63
West Branch (55) – Drew Cornwell 10-28 2-2 24, Trey eagle 6-10 5-8 17, Brady Lukavsky 103 0-0 2, Zach Thompson 2-3 1-2 5, Ted Bridges 2-8 0-0 5, Brett Schiele 1-2 0-0 2, Jeff Bowie 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-54 8-12 55.
Regina (63) – Masen Miller 5-15 9-10 22, Ashton Cook, 7-12 4-6 20, Bryce Barnett 3-8 2-2 8, Luke Stein 2-7 2-4 6, Scotty Arendt 3-7 0-0 6, Alec Wick 0-1 0-0 0, Jack Keller 0-0 1-2 1, Patrick Clark 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-50 17-24 63.
3-point goals – West Branch 3 (Beau Cornwell 2 Ted Bridges); Regina 5 (Masen Miller 3, Ashton Cook 2). Fouls – West Branch 20, Regina 15.