Photo by Rob Howe
Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – West Branch entered the final week of the regular season two wins away from an outright conference title.
The only thing standing in the way of the Bears and the River Valley Conference South Division title was arch rival Regina and fifth-ranked Camanche.
One down for the Bears. One more big one to go.
West Branch earned a share of the RVC South title on Tuesday with a 56-50 win over Regina (13-6, 13-4 RVC) in Iowa City.
The Bears can hold the RVC crown all on its own with a home win over fifth-ranked Camanche on Saturday.
“I told the guys this is what you dream about when you are a little kid playing for a conference title,” West Branch coach Jason Kern said. “I’m so proud of these guys. They could have rolled over and quit after Friday night after a bad loss but to see them come out and see that first shot go in tonight, I knew were ready to go.”
Tanner Lukavsky snapped a 13-all tie with a pull-up 3-pointer that just beat the first-quarter buzzer and West Branch never trailed again while bouncing back from a road loss at Mid-Prairie on Friday.
Three players scored 12 points as West Branch (17-3, 15-3) locked up at least a share of the RVC title while completing the season sweep of Regina.
“We won one in 2017 but before that it was 2000 so there haven’t been too many conference championships for basketball here,” West Branch senior Tanner Lukavsky said. “It’s exciting.”
West Branch used its balanced scoring to overcome another herculean effort from Regina senior Masen Miller and set up a Saturday afternoon showdown with Camanche (16-3).
Miller, who had 35 points in a two-point loss to West Branch last month, finished with 36 points but Regina shot just 31 percent from the field and was 9-of-37 from 3-point range.
“The kid is a heck of a player,” Kern said of Miller. “I haven’t seen someone who can shoot like that and he’s so quick and can handle it. We wanted to make those other guys step up in a big moment and knock down a shot and they did some tonight and at the end the ball bounced the other way.”
Regina led 13-10 early when Danny Molony knocked down a 3-pointer with 1:56 left in the opening quarter but West Branch scored the final six points of the quarter on back-to-back 3-pointers by Trey Eagle and Lukavsky.
The Bears took control of the game with a 9-0 run with all the production coming from sophomore Peyton Miller and junior Gavin Hierseman.
Miller, who entered averaging 5.6 points per game, came off the bench and scored 10 of his 12 points in the second quarter.
“When we had some injuries and some of that stuff in the middle of the season we weren’t sure how we were going to respond and we had sophomores step up huge off the bench,” Kern said. “Peyton Miller gave us massive minutes tonight.”
Regina cut a 10-point halftime deficit to three at 36-33 on a conventional 3-point play by Miller with 4:45 left in the third quarter.
West Branch responded with a 10-2 run, limiting the Regals to only a Miller jumper over the final four minutes of the quarter.
“We had open looks, we’ve been working on a lot of stuff and we got open shots,” Regina coach Jared Galpin said. “Friday guys knocked shots down, Saturday guys knocked down shots. As long as we keep working hard in practice and repping those shots at game speed you know tonight was just an off shooting night.”
Miller, Eagle and Simon Palmer all scored 12 points as West Branch shot 57 percent from the floor including 7-of-14 from 3-point range.
Lukavsky added nine points and a game-high 14 rebounds.
“We don’t have a kid like Masen that can just hit anything,” Lukavsky said. “Everyone has to do their part and if someone is lacking then someone else with step in.”
Miller had 22 of his game-high 36 points in the second half and finished 12-of-23 from the floor and 6-of-15 from 3-point range.
“He’s a hard kid to defend,” Kern said. “I’m glad I don’t have to play him any more that’s for sure.”
Regina (50) – Danny Molony 2-7 0-0 6, Masen Miller 12-23 6-7 36, Casey Daniel 1-14 1-4 4, Coltrae Kerschen 0-4 0-0 0, Chase Becker 0-2 0-0 0, Josh Dutchik 2-4 0-0 4, Andrew Wiese 0-1 0-0 0, Totals 17-55 7-11 50.
West Branch (56) – Peyton Miller 5-9 0-0 12, Matt Whaley 1-4 2-3 5, Trey Eagle 4-6 2-4 12, Gavin Hierseman 2-5 1-2 6, Tanner Lukavsky 3-6 2-5 9, Simon Palmer 5-5 2-4 12, Totals 20-35 9-18 56.
3-point field goals – ICR 9-37 (Molony 2-7, Miller 6-15, Daniel 1-11, Kerschen 0-4), WB 7-14 (Miller 2-5, Whaley 1-1, Eagle 2-4, Hierseman 1-2, Lukavsky 1-2). Rebounds – ICR 27 (Dutchik 8), WB 32 (Lukavsky 14). Turnovers – ICR 7, WB 12. Total fouls – ICR 17, WB 10. Fouled out – ICR (Dutchik). Technical fouls – None.
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