Your Prep Sports
WEST BRANCH – Entering the holiday break as a top-five team and riding a four-game winning streak West Branch wasn’t in need of freshman start in 2021.
Instead the Bears used the two-week stretch without games as a chance to rest, reset and recharge.
In its first week back in action West Branch has looked fully charged.
Class 2A third-ranked West Branch followed up an 11-point win at 3A sixth-ranked West Liberty on Tuesday by dominating Mid-Prairie 66-29 on Friday in a River Valley Conference South Division matchup on Friday in West Branch.
“Coming out of break it’s not starting the season over but its recharging,” West Branch coach Jarod Tylee said. “I thought our kids came out and played well on Tuesday night and played even better tonight.”
West Branch shot 49 percent from the field and had four players in double figures on Friday led by senior point guard Sasha Koenig who scored a game-high 21 points.
The Bears never trailed on Friday and led 21-2 after the opening quarter and 38-8 at halftime while improving to 9-1 on the season with its sixth consecutive win.
“When we are making shots we are hard to guard and when we defend and rebound we are a tough team to beat,” Tylee said. “The last two games I thought defensively we played really well and I thought we rebounded really well.”
West Branch closed out December by winning four straight games by an average of better than 21 points per game.
The Bears have picked up right where they left off in January.
Delyanie Luneckas had a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds and Taya Young added 14 points and Rylan Druecker 11 on Friday as West Branch won its seventh straight over Mid-Prairie.
“We were excited about Tuesday, they are a good team and we were excited to get back out there tonight,” Luneckas said. “We wanted to keep it rolling.”
Druecker set the tone when she drilled a wide open 3-pointer from the wing just six seconds into the game.
West Branch was 8-of-13 from the field in the first quarter, including 3-of-6 from beyond the arc and closed the quarter with 13 unanswered points over the final 3:22.
“This was a big win for us,” Young said. “Every year we kind of struggle with them and I think this year we came out strong and took advantage of our matchups.”
West Branch used a combination of half-court man-to-man and full-court trapping defense to forced Mid-Prairie into 14 first-half turnovers.
As the Bears switched defense one thing remained a constant – pressure on the ball hander.
“It’s just a matter of our kids getting up and putt pressure on the ball handler and moving the way they are supposed to be when the ball is in certain spots,” Tylee said. “We work on it every day and it’s our goal to be really good at it every night out.”
West Branch limited Mid-Prairie (5-6) to 3-of-22 shooting in the first half while building a 38-8 lead.
The Bears were even more impressive on offense.
Seamless and speedy ball movement allowed West Branch to get countless open looks from the perimeter, going 9-of-21 from 3-point range.
Koenig and Druecker both had three 3-pointers while Young hit both of her attempts from beyond the arc.
“This year we move the ball better than we ever have since I’ve been in high school,” Young said. “We practice it every day and we are comfortable with the ball and passing and getting ourselves open.”
Luneckas added an interior presence to the offensive equation, finishing with a double-double.
“We have some very unselfish players and we all know what we have to do to win,” Luneckas said. “That’s what we are going to do, we are going to get out and go after it and do whatever it takes.”
Phelan Hostetler led Mid-Prairie with 8 points. The two teams are set to meet again on February 5 in Wellman.
West Branch 21 17 16 12 – 66
Mid-Prairie 2 6 11 10 – 29
West Branch (66) – Sadie Smith 0-1 0-0 0, Lexi Peak 1-4 0-0 3, Sasha Koenig 7-14 4-4 21, Delaynie Luneckas 5-12 4-4 14, Abby Westcott 1-2 1-4 3, Rylan Druecker 4-6 0-0 11, Addie Wehde 0-1 0-0 0, Taya Young 6-9 0-0 14, Totals 24-49 9-12 66.
Mid-Prairie (29) – Cana Rediger 0-2 0-0 0, Maya Nonnenmann 0-1 0-0 0, Landry Pacha 1-4 0-0 3, Ester Hughes 1-6 0-0 2, Amara Jones 0-3 4-4 4, Myah Lugar 2-6 0-0 5, Madeline Nonnenmann 2-6 1-2 5, Nora Pennington 1-4 0-0 2, Phelan Hostetler 3-6 3-4 8, Alyssa McDowell 0-1 0-0 0, Totals 10-39 7-10 29.
3-point field goals – WB 9-21 (Peak 1-3, Koenig 3-10, Luneckas 0-1, Druecker 3-5, Young 2-2), M-P 2-14 (Rediger 0-2, Ma. Nonnenmann 0-1, Pacha 1-3, Hughes 0-2, Jones 0-1, Lugar 1-3, Mad. Nonnenmann 0-1, Pennington 0-1). Rebounds – WB 34 (Luneckas 12), M-P 22 (Hughes 4). Turnovers – WB 16, M-P 22. Total fouls – WB 10, M-P 14. Fouled out – None. Technical fouls – None.