Strong Defensive Effort Helps West Branch Overcome Slow Start in Win at Regina

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Photo by Norv Coblentz

Susan Harman

Your Prep Sports

IOWA CITY – West Branch was a frosty 1-for-13 from the field in the first quarter at Regina, with its lone basket coming almost six minutes into the game. Yet the Regals were not able to build a significant lead.

The Bears picked up the pace defensively in the second quarter and turned Regal turnovers into baskets en route to a 37-28 River Valley Conference victory Tuesday. 

The Bears improved to 12-2 and the Regals are 5-7.

“We had some good looks inside and just didn’t finish them,” Regina coach Jeff Wallace said. “We played well enough defensively to win this game.”

Regina’s zone defense was impenetrable in the first quarter. The Bears missed shots galore and committed five turnovers but trailed only 6-3.

 “Shots just weren’t falling in the first quarter,” West Branch guard Sasha Koenig said. “We really made up for it on the defensive end. They packed the zone, and we like to drive the lane. We’re not used to running an offense where we have to pass (around the perimeter). We’re a transition team. It really made us work our offense.”

As Koenig suggested, Regina also struggled offensively. The Regals were 3-of-8 in the first quarter and 0-for-6 in the second.

They committed seven second-quarter turnovers in 13 possessions, and the Bears converted those into eight points.

 “I think in the second quarter the difference is we made some shots and got some offense from our defense,” West Branch coach Jarod Tylee said. “Which is obviously what we needed because we didn’t shoot the ball very well tonight.

“We put a lot of emphasis on our defense. We want to stop people; no matter what we do at the offensive end we know we’re going to stop people at the other end.”

The Bears made 5-of-11 shots in the second period.

 “We just kept moving the ball because eventually their zone would be out of place and we’d have an open three or our post would be open,” sophomore Taya Young said.

 “(Bear junior guard) Taylor Thein was up on the ball, and that was huge because it made them get it out of the ball-handler’s hands,” Koenig said. “And then we were in the passing lanes.”

 “(Regina senior) Kennedy Wallace is a really good shooter, and Taylor did amazing on her to make sure she had no threes,” Young said.

The Bears built a 16-8 lead at halftime, but Regina pulled within one point in the third quarter and was as close as 31-28 with 3:18 left in the fourth. But the Regals couldn’t put enough offense together to put heat on the Bears.

West Branch was able to keep possession while killing time and made just enough free throws to pull through.

 “Offensively right now we are challenged, and we’ve got to figure out how to get key people more looks,” Jeff Wallace said. “The girls have to learn to play with confidence. To West Branch’s credit, their ball pressure tonight got us flustered.

 “But I was really proud of the girls. They played their tails off. We just couldn’t put the ball in the hole again, and that’s kind of been the theme of the year.”

The Regals were led by Samantha Greving’s 16 points. The Regals played only six players and just four scored. The Bears were led by Koenig’s 16 points and got nice contributions from their reserves.

West Branch   3  13 10  11 – 37

Regina            6   2  10  10 – 28

West Branch (37) – Abbey Fryauf 0-0 0-0 0, Sasha Koenig 5-15 3-6 16, Kaiya Luneckas 0-0 0-0 0, Taylor Thein  1-7 1-2 4, Taya Young 2-8 2-2 6, Rylan Druecker 2-5 0-0 6, Mackenzie Heise 2-5 1-2 5, Riley Vaughan 0-0 0-0 0, Delanie Luneckas 0-0 0-0 0, Totals 12-40 7-12.

Regina (28) – Ellie Gahan 3-5 1-2 7, Annie Gahan 0-3 0-0 0, Claire Gaarde 0-2 0-0 0, Kennedy Wallace 1-5 0-0 2, Samantha Greving 4-11 6-8 16, Stephanie Stenger 1-1 0-0 3, Totals 9-27 7-10 28.

3-point goals – West Branch 6-19 (Koenig 3-8, Thein 1-5, Young 0-4, Druecker 2-2), Regina 3-9 (A. Gahan 0-1, Gaarde 0-1, Wallace 0-2, Greving 2-4, Stenger 1-1). Total fouls – West Branch 12, Regina 12. Fouled out – none.