Your Prep Sports
WEST BRANCH – Regina narrowly missed an opportunity to cap an incredible opening week of 2022 and put itself in the drivers’ season in the River Valley Conference South Division race on Saturday with a home loss to Monticello.
The Regals didn’t have to wait long for another shot at a big-time win and this time they took advantage.
Class 2A eighth-ranked Regina used a strong second half to pull away from No. 13 West Branch for a 55-43 win in a River Valley Conference showdown in West Branch.
“There are no day off,” Regina coach Mary Rogers said. “I told the girls on Saturday we lost by four but we have to move on because the next one is bigger than the one we just had. I loved the mentality we came out with tonight.”
Grace Gaarde scored a game-high 18 points and Lily Simpson added 16 as Regina (10-3, 10-1) remained alone atop the RVC South Division standings.
The win snapped a five-game losing skid for Regina against the Bears and was the first win for the Regals in the series since 2019.
“From the very beginning of the season we set our goals and we knew exactly what we wanted to do,” Simpson said. “We wanted to beat West Branch but more than that we wanted to be at the top of our conference and it’s been a lot of work but it’s paying off.”
Gaarde made her final five field goal attempts, including four three-pointers, on her way to a game-high 18 points.
After making 1-of-6 shots in the first quarter as Regina went 4-of-16 from the floor, Gaarde finished 6-of-11 helping Regina shoot 58 percent from the field over the final three quarters.
“At the beginning I wasn’t hitting my 3s and I didn’t know how the rest of the game was going to go but it really helped when you knock a couple down, not just me but the whole team,” Gaarde said. “After that you know you are back in it and you can keep it going and it just gives you more confidence.”
It was West Branch (8-3, 8-3) that was hot early hitting its first four shots while taking a 13-9 after the opening quarter.
The Bears led 23-18 after a three-pointer by freshman August Palmer with 4:38 left in the first half but Regina responded with a 10-2 run.
“They got on us right away, we’ve gotten down a lot early in games but we just fought, fought, fought,” Rogers said. “They were lights out from deep and we just had to keep fighting and we really did.”
A three-pointer by Kylie Pickett with 32 seconds left in the first half pulled West Branch even at 28 at intermission but the second half was all Regina.
Gaarde and freshman Morgan Miller each hit three-pointers during a 9-2 run to open the half and Gaarde hit her second triple of the quarter during a 9-0 burst to close the third quarter that put Regina up 46-35.
“I think she has confidence and she’s showing maturity,” Rogers said of Gaarde. “She has learned her role and I tell the girls all the time in practice, ‘shoot the ball when you are open. Shoot the ball’, they just have to keep shooting the ball and it worked out.”
Simpson had 10 of her 16 points in the second half and played a key role in the Regals slowing West Branch standout post Delaynie Luneckas.
Luneckas made her first four shots and finished with 12 points but was held to four on 2-of-5 shooting after halftime.
“It was pretty hard to shut her down, we worked on it a lot in practice but it’s hard to duplicate playing against her,” Simpson said. “We just tried to keep a hand high and not let her go up.”
Palmer had 17 points and Pickett added 12 for West Branch but the Bears shot just 39 percent in the second half and committed 17 turnovers in the game.
“We tried to get our energy up and work better as a team especially on defense,” Gaarde said. “We were able to slow them down a little bit and get a lead.”
West Branch 13 15 7 8 – 43
Regina 9 19 18 9 – 55
West Branch (43) – Sadie Smith 0-3 0-0 0, Alyse Klinkkammer 0-1 0-0 0, Kylie Pickett 4-8 0-0 12, Delaynie Luneckas 6-10 0-0 12, August Palmer 7-12 0-0 17, Avery Schultes 0-3 0-0 0, Iva Senio 1-1 0-0 2, Totals 18-38 0-0 7-15.
Regina (55) – Alli Dillon 0-3 1-2 1, Grace Gaarde 6-11 1-3 18, Morgan Miller 2-8 1-2 7, Ali Clark 3-6 0-0 7, Hope Simpson 1-3 4-6 6, Lily Simpson 7-11 2-2 16, Totals 19-42 9-15 55.
3-point field goals – WB 7-15 (Klinkkammer 0-1, Pickett 4-7, Palmer 3-6, Schultes 0-1), ICR 8-22 (Dillon 0-1, Gaarde 5-9, Miller 2-6, Clark 1-4, H. Simpson 0-2). Rebounds – WB 24 (Palmer 7), ICR 25 (L. Simpson 6). Turnovers – WB 17, ICR 9. Total fouls – WB 14, ICR 7. Fouled out – None. Technical fouls – None.