Your Prep Sports
DES MOINES – The number one goal for the West Branch basketball team last season was the same as it had been for years – reach the state tournament.
West Branch achieved that objective last season qualifying for the state tournament for the first time since 2016 and falling to eventual runner-up Osage in the opening round.
When this season opened in November a return trip to state was no longer the sole focus, instead just part of the master plan.
After securing the first state tournament win in program history with a 49-33 quarterfinal victory over No. 8 Grundy Center the Bears have their sights set on a lot more.
“Every team sits there and says ‘lets win state’,” West Branch senior guard Sasha Koenig said. “But with this team when we say it we mean it, it’s a real possibility.”
Third-ranked West Branch (21-1) can take another step towards its state title game on Friday when it faces second-ranked Dike-New Hartford (24-0) in a Class 2A semifinal at Noon at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
Dike-New Hartford advanced to the semifinals with a 44-36 win over No. 10 Treynor in the quarterfinals.
“I think we have what it takes but part of what it takes is preparation and we don’t have a lot of time,” West Branch coach Jarod Tylee said. “We have to turn around and Dike-New Hartford is going to be really, really good so we have a lot of work to do.”
Watching film of Dike-New Hartford and seeing the Wolverines in person at the state tournament Tylee couldn’t help but see a bit of his own team in the Bears’ semifinal opponent.
The similarities between the two teams certainly stand out.
Both are built on pressure defense, have strong point guard play and a difference maker in the post.
“We each have a good post player inside, we each have a fiery point guard that runs the show for us and then a bunch of people that will do what they need to do to win and both teams want to get up in your face and pressure,” Tylee said. “Hopefully it’s a good game and I know our kids are looking forward to it.”
Perhaps the biggest similarity is on defense.
Dike-New Hartford is tops in Class 2A in points allowed this season and entered the state tournament holding opponents to 25.7 points per game.
The Wolverines held Treynor to 20 points over the final three quarters while overcoming a 16-11 first quarter deficit in its quarterfinal win.
Freshman post Payton Petersen leads the team with 14.1 points and 8.3 rebounds per game while 6-foot sophomore Ellary Knock averages 11 points per game.
“They are going to pressure us big time,” Tylee said. “They want to get up in your face and full-court pressure you and make things difficult for you and they have a freshman post that is really good inside. We are going to have to make sure we do our best to keep her in check and they have shooters too. We will put together a game plan and hopefully execute it and see what happens.”
Knock had 14 points in the quarterfinal win to lead three Dike-New Hartford players in double figures.
Petersen had 11 points and 10 rebounds and Paula Gonzalez had 10 points.
“They have height and shooters for sure,” Koenig said. “They have a pretty good guard that attacks but I don’t think they seen a man defense like ours so I think we will match up with them pretty well. I’m excited.”