By Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
WEST BRANCH – Just as it has been for most of the season the offensive production for West Branch was a little inconsistent Friday.
“A work in progress,” is how West Branch coach Jarod Tylee described his team’s offense.
Fortunately for Tylee there was nothing inconsistent about the defensive effort from the Bears on Friday.
West Branch forced 25 turnovers and held Northeast to 26 percent shooting in a 45-34 win over the Rebels in a River Valley Conference cross-divisional matchup in West Branch.
The win was the second straight following the holiday break for West Branch (8-4, 7-4 RVC) which allowed 37 points against Durant on Tuesday.
“We don’t always know what we are going to get from our offense but we need to know what we are getting from our defense,” Tylee said. “Our first two games out of break we’ve given up 37 points and 34 points so we’ve been pretty good.”
West Branch had its moments on offense against Northeast.
The Bears scored 14 points in less than six minutes while jumping to a 14-3 first-quarter lead.
Tatum Koenig and Haley Mullinnix each scored 17 points for West Branch which shot 33 percent from the field.
“We have people that can score but we know it’s going to be our defense that we have to rely on,” Mullinnix said. “We don’t really need to score a lot of points to win games because our defense can usually handle it.”
It was the defense that helped West Branch take control early.
The Bears forced eight Northeast (4-7, 2-6) turnovers in the opening quarter while building what proved to be an insurmountable lead.
Koenig scored 10 of the Bears’ 14 first-quarter points, her conventional 3-point play following a Northeast turnover put West Branch up 14-3 with 2:33 left in the opening quarter.
“We try to go into every game knowing exactly what we have to do defensively because that will transition to offense for us,” Koenig said. “That’s what happened for us in the first quarter.”
A lull from the West Branch offense briefly let Northeast back into the game.
West Branch went nearly four minutes without a point to end the first and start the second quarter and Northeast took advantage with 10 unanswered points.
A 3-pointer by Shauna McAleer 50 seconds into the second quarter pulled the Rebels within one at 14-13.
The West Branch defense made sure the Bears never gave up the lead.
West Branch held Northeast to three points over the next eight plus minutes turning a one-point lead into a 25-16 halftime cushion.
Mullinnix started the second half with a 3-pointer that pushed the lead to 28-16.
Northeast never got the lead to single digits again.
“I thought we played pretty well defensively,” Mullinnix said. “There were a couple of spots where we didn’t really hang in there like at the end of the first quarter but overall I think we did pretty well.”
Koenig and Mullinnix provided all the offense West Branch would need, combing for 11 of the Bears’ 14 field goals.
Sophomore Abbey Fryauf had eight rebounds and senior Abby Knoop added five points and four boards for the Bears.
“We are going to rely on our guards, they are our best players,” Tylee said. “Offensively we made enough shots and made enough free throws down the stretch to take care of things.”
Northeast 10 6 4 14 – 34
West Branch 14 11 8 12 – 45
West Branch (45) – Abbey Fryauf 1-3 1-2 3, Courtney Jarrett 0-2 0-0 0, Riley Vaughan 0-0 2-2 2, Abby Knoop 2-4 1-4 5, Tatum Koenig 5-11 6-10 17, Bridget Buol 0-2 0-0 0, Haley Mullinnix 6-19 2-2 17, Mackenzie Heise 0-1 1-3 1, Team 14-42 13-23 45.
Northeast (34) – Jayna Farrell 0-1 0-0 0, Carly Hasken 1-7 0-0 3, Jacey House 2-5 1-2 6, Casidy Dondiego 1-4 1-4 3, Shauna McAleer 2-7 0-0 5, Brenna Seeser 2-11 0-0 5, Claire Abbott 0-0 0-3 0, Madlin Kaczinski 3-7 4-6 12, Team 11-42 6-15 34.
3-point field goals – WB 4-11 (Koenig 1-4, Mullinnix 3-7), NE 6-20 (Hasken 1-4, House 1-2, McAleer 1-4, Seeser 1-5, Kaczinski 2-5). Rebounds – WB 30 (Fryauf, Koenig 8), NE 40 (Abbott 12). Turnovers – WB 14, NE 25. Total fouls – WB 17, NE 21. Fouled out – WB (Heise). Technical fouls – None.