Your Prep Sports
WEST BRANCH – West Branch returned three senior starters including its top two scorers from a state tournament team a year ago.
It has been one of the newcomers to the Bear starting lineup that has provided an added dimension for a West Branch team with state title aspirations.
Junior center Delaynie Luneckas continued her breakthrough season on Tuesday with an 18-point, 10-rebound double-double in her first career postseason start as third-ranked West Branch (18-1) rolled past Danville 75-41 in a Class 2A, Region 3 quarterfinal.
“I’ve gotten more comfortable and aggressively offensively,” Luneckas said. “I knew I had a place offensively last year but we had so many pieces where I wasn’t a key person and this year I’ve gotten a lot more confidence in my offense and in my role on the team.”
West Branch returned perhaps the best backcourt in Class 2A in seniors Sasha Koenig, Rylan Druecker and Taya Young from last year’s 2A quarterfinal squad.
Long-time West Branch coach Jarod Tylee knew what he had in his senior guard corps but the offensive development of the 6-foot-2 Luneckas in the post has added different type of threat to the lineup.
“The last quarter of the season I feel like she has elevated herself, especially offensively,” Tylee said. “I feel like defensively she has been pretty good all year but offensively she has slowed the game down for herself, she has become more patient with the ball in her hands whether it’s passing or looking for her shot.”
In Tuesday’s postseason opener Luneckas showed what makes her so dangerous.
The junior center made 5-of-6 field goal attempts and hit all eight of her free throw attempts and had an assists.
“She has basketball IQ,” West Branch senior point guard Sasha Koenig said. “She understands the game, she knows when it kick it out and when to make a strong move and go up and she is patient in there which makes her a big threat.”
On the defensive end Luneckas had 10 rebounds, four steals and blocked a shot and ranks fifth in Class 2A with 2.7 blocks per game this season.
“I am just proud of how she has progressed and we need her to keep getting there,” Tylee said. “She is a quality player and we are going to count on her moving forward.”
Last season Luneckas played primarily as a back-up to her older sister Kaiya in the post averaging 4.4 points and 4.1 rebounds per game.
In an expanded role this season Luneckas is averaging 12.2 points and 9.2 rebounds per game while shooting better than 51 percent from the field.
“I definitely have gotten more comfortable in what my role is and how I need to play,” Luneckas said. “We have talked a lot this year about how I speed up myself and rush my shots and we’ve talked a lot about that. I play a lot better when I slow down and stick the fundamentals.”
Tuesday was the latest in what has been a string of impressive performance from Luneckas.
Luneckas has scored in double figures in five straight games while posting double-doubles four times during that stretch.
She is averaging 14.8 points and 10.4 rebounds per game during that stretch and has posted three consecutive double-doubles.
“I think she has just matured as a basketball player,” Koenig said. “She’s making big plays and finishing around the basket which is huge for us to have a threat in there.”
Luneckas had plenty of help on Tuesday as West Branch pushed its winning streak to 15 and advanced to take on Pella Christian (9-13) in the Region 3 semifinals on Friday at 7 p.m.
Druecker had a game-high 21 points on 9-of-15 shooting and Koenig added 17 points and seven rebounds as West Branch shot 46 percent from the floor and hit eight 3-pointers.
Sophomore Sadie Smith added eight points off the bench and Lexie Peak had seven.
“We know we can’t look past any team,” Koenig said. “We knew they had a big post and some shooters so we weren’t going to overlook them and I think we came out and played pretty well.”
West Branch closed the opening quarter on a 14-2 run to take a 24-9 and lead 44-24 at the half.
“Obviously the start is the big thing for us, we want to get off to a good start like that,” Tylee said. “I thought for the most part we played pretty well, we had a couple of two or three minute stretches where we got sloppy and turned the ball over and gave them some easy baskets. I don’t want to take from our kids, they played really well, they shot the ball well and transitioned really well.”
Drew Fox led Danville (7-14) with 17 points and 11 rebounds while Makenzie Morris had 11 points.
West Branch will turn it’s attention to Pella Christian which moved on with a 49-40 win over Pekin on Tuesday.
“I am super excited, I know who we play we can take them,” Luneckas said. “We have a really good team and we have all the pieces to go all the way.”
Danville 9 15 13 4 – 41
West Branch 24 20 16 15 – 75
West Branch (75) – Sadie Smith 4-6 0-0 8, Lexie Peak 2-4 1-2 7, Sasha Koenig 6-13 2-2 17, Delaynie Luneckas 5-6 8-8 18, Madison Hovancik 0-2 0-0 0, Abby Westcott 0-2 0-2 0, Rylan Druecker 9-15 0-0 21, Savannah Sexton 0-1 0-0 0, Taya Young 1-9 2-2 4, Bailey Donohoe 0-1 0-0 0, Totals 27-59 13-16 75.
Danville (41) – Jaeda Molle 1-5 0-0 2, Ava Smith 0-3 1-2 1, Graci Walker 1-1 0-1 2, Rylee Morris 1-2 0-0 2, Makenzie Morris 4-7 2-2 11, Jacey Moore 0-3 0-0 0, Cassidy Yaley 1-7 0-0 3, Kenna Furnald 1-7 0-0 3, Drew Fox 8-15 1-2 17, Totals 17-50 4-7 41.
3-point field goals – WB 8-24 (Peak 2-4, Koenig 3-9, Hovancik 0-1, Druecker 3-6, Sexton 0-1, Young 0-3), DAN 3-22 (Morris 1-2, Moore 0-2, Yaley 1-6, Furnald 1-7, Fox 0-3, Smith 0-2). Rebounds – WB 40 (Luneckas 10), DAN 30 (Fox 11). Turnovers – WB 18, DAN 26. Total fouls – WB 6, DAN 13. Fouled out – None. Technical fouls – None.