West Branch senior Cooper KabelaBy Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
WEST BRANCH – Every coach seems to have a different plan to stop, slow or at least contain West Branch senior scoring machine Cooper Kabela.
Monticello coach Tim Lambert had his own unique strategy for defending the 6-foot-4 Kabela on Friday.
“Pray,” Lambert said. “That’s about all you can do.”
Lambert’s scheme to slow Kabela didn’t work out exactly the way he planned but Monticello got the result it was looking for.
Kabela poured in a game-high 30 points but Monticello (1-1) shot 68 percent in a 46-point second half to overcome a six-point halftime deficit in a 70-56 win over West Branch in a River Valley Conference cross-divisional matchup in West Branch.
The senior forward had 13 of his 30 points in the opening quarter as West Branch built a 20-10 lead but managed just 36 points the rest of the way while falling to 1-1 on the season.
“I thought we kind of lost our focus a little bit in the second half,” Kabela said. “We didn’t really run our stuff and we are very young team at this moment and they kind of went on a run and we didn’t really handle it very well.”
Kabela missed two shots on the opening possession of the game but connected on his next six field goal attempts, including three 3-pointers to stake West Branch to an early lead.
A free throw by Kabela with 3:02 left in the first half put the Bears up 30-16 with 19 of those points coming from the senior forward.
Monticello got back into the game with an 8-0 run to end the half, holding West Branch scoreless for the final three minutes of the half.
“With three minutes to go we are up 30-16 and I think we got impatient and started shooting some shots we shouldn’t,” West Branch coach Tom Burger said.
That was just the start of the Panthers.
Monticello opened the second half on a 9-2 run and took its first lead of the game on a Jacob Manternach 3-pointer with 5:43 left in the third quarter.
The rest of the quarter was back-and-forth.
Kabela scored his teams’ final seven points of the third quarter and put the Bears on top 44-42 with a conventional 3-point play with 47 seconds left.
Monticello took the lead back at 45-44 on the third 3-pointer of the quarter by Manternach with 24 seconds left and never trailed again.
The Panthers were 7-of-10 from the field and 5-of-8 from 3-point range in the third quarter.
“They looked better in person than they did on film,” Burger said. “We didn’t expect them to hit some of the shots that they did.”
Finally in the final quarter Monticello found a way to slow Kabela.
A bloody nose late in the quarter kept Kabela off the court for a few minutes and constant double teams from the Panthers. held the senior to two points in the final eight minutes.
“The second half we made some adjustments on Kabela, he is a heck of a player, he’s probably the best post we will play all year,” Lambert said. “I thought we held him off and made their other kids beat us and fortunately they missed some shots.”
After going 7-of-14 in the opening quarter West Branch shot just 29 percent the rest of the way.
The Bears were just 4-of-16 from the field in the fourth quarter and shot 33 percent for the game.
“They took us out of what we wanted to do,” Burger said. “They took Kabela out, they got physical with him and we couldn’t find him and then we just couldn’t hit a shot.”
Sophomore Beau Cornwell added 15 points for West Branch and Tanner Lukavsky had six.
Kyle Sperfslage led three Monticello players in double figures with 25 on 7-of-11 shooting.
Manternach added 14 and Andrew Tjaden had 11.
Despite the loss Kabela wasn’t down on his team.
“We are young and it’s the beginning of the season,” Kabela said. “We knew that’s kind of what it was going to be this year. We just have to continue to grow and get better.”
West Branch 20 10 14 12 – 56
Monticello 10 14 21 25 – 70
West Branch (56) – Cade Aspelmeier 0-2 0-0 0, Beau Cornwell 5-18 5-6 15, Brady Lukavsky 0-1 0-0 0, Tanner Lukavsky 2-3 0-0 6, Brett Schiele 1-8 0-0 2, Cooper Kabela 10-16 7-8 30, Ben Thompson 1-6 1-4 3, Ted Bridges 0-4 0-0 0, Team 19-58 13-18 56.
Monticello (70) – Avery Martensen 1-4 2-2 4, Jacob Manternach 5-7 1-5 14, Devin Kraus 1-1 0-0 2, Taylor Manternach 1-1 1-2 3, Jordan Breashears 2-3 5-6 9, Alexander Nealson 1-4 0-0 2, Andrew Tjaden 5-9 1-3 11, Kyle Sperfslage 7-11 8-8 25, Team 23-40 18-26 70.
3-point field goals – WB 5-22 (Cornwell 0-7, T. Lukavsky 2-2, Schiele 0-5, Kabela 3-5, Thompson 0-1, Bridges 0-2) MON 6-11 (Martensen 0-2, J. Manternach 3-4, Sperfslage 3-5). Rebounds – WB 23 (T. Lukavsky, Kabela 7) MON 40 (J. Manternach 11). Turnovers – WB 8, MON 17. Total fouls – WB 23, MON 13. Fouled out – None. Technical fouls – None.