Your Prep Sports
WEST BRANCH – An underdog playing with confidence is a dangerous thing in postseason basketball.
There may not be a more confident player leading a more dangerous underdog team in the Class 1A postseason than Holden Arnaman and late-charging West Branch.
Arnaman poured in a career-high 41 points as West Branch continued it’s late season surge with a 76-36 win over Durant in a Class 2A, Substate 5 opener on Monday in West Branch.
“It’s all about confidence right now,” Arnaman said. “That’s what I’ve got and I just have that mindset every game that I’m going to take over.”
Arnaman had 35 points over the final three quarters before exiting for good with 3:37 remaining.
The junior point guard was 15-of-24 from the field, including 9-of-13 from 3-point range as West Branch (12-10) won for the seventh time in its last nine games.
“We are playing really confident, we had a little win streak going there and that’s the key at the end of the season,” Arnaman said. “You want to play your best ball at the end of the year and we are doing that and we are playing with confidence.”
Junior Reese Trepanier added 14 points and nine rebounds and West Branch shot 57 percent from the field on Monday in its third win over Durant (6-16) in less than a month.
However, this night was all about Arnaman who made eight of his final nine field goal attempts including all five in the fourth quarter.
“He is the best point guard in 2A, I will say that hands down and when he’s got it going it’s hard to stop him,” West Branch coach Jason Kern said. “He has been facing triangle and two and box and one and every night there is something different he is facing but he’s got all the confidence in the world right now.”
Following a 5-8 start to the season West Branch began to pick up steam and along the way the Bears gained confidence.
That confidence starts with Arnaman and has spread to the rest of the team.
West Branch has won seven of its last nine games entering a trip to third-ranked Aplington-Parkersburg (19-2) on Thursday for a substate quarterfinal.
“We are just connecting,” Arnaman said. “We were a little out of sorts the first few games and we’ve slowly started putting things together and now we are playing good ball.”
Just as he did on Monday, Arnaman has been at the center of the second-half push for the Bears.
Arnaman is averaging 25.9 points per game over the last 11 contests and has scored 20 points nine times during that stretch with three games of 36 or more.
“He was already playing pretty good basketball but he is even more confident now that’s he’s 100 percent healthy,” Kern said. “We have two or three other guys that can score too and that takes a little pressure off him and that helps too.”
After going 9-of-13 from 3-point range Arnaman is shooting 60 percent (25-of-42) from beyond the arc over his last five games.
“I really just see the game a lot better, and it’s slowed down a lot,” Arnaman said. “I put in a lot of work this summer and it’s paying off.”
Arnaman had six points on a pair of 3-pointers in the first quarter, his second triple giving West Branch a 11-4 lead after the opening quarter.
Trepanier and Arnaman combined for 22 of the Bears’ 24 second-quarter points, including the final 18 as West Branch took a 35-20 halftime lead.
“After my first two threes I knew it was going to be a good night,” Arnaman said. “I felt good.”
West Branch put the game away quickly after halftime closing the third quarter with an 11-0 run that spanned the final five minutes.
Durant senior Nolan DeLong had 24 points but West Branch limited the rest of the Wildcats to 12 points on 5-of-25 shooting.
The Wildcats shot just 29 percent from the field in the game.
“I think is our defense that has picked it up,” Trepanier said. “We know we can score, we’ve got guys that can score you saw that with Holden going off tonight, but we’ve picked it up defensively.”
West Branch held a 37-19 rebounding edge allowing just three offensive rebounds.
“Tonight I thought we were ready to play, we had a really good two days of practice and our kids were locked in and came out right away,” Kern said. “That’s been our kryptonite is boxing out and rebounding and I thought we were great tonight with that and getting back in transition and stopping the ball.”
West Branch will face an Aplington-Parkersburg team that leads 2A in scoring at 77.3 points per game on Thursday at 7 p.m.
“They are deep, they are athletic, they want to get out and run,” Kern said. “If we don’t get back it’s going to be a track meet and it’s going to be a long night for us. We are going to have to play a really good game but I think we can win. We know that we have to win to move on, it’s survive and advance and I think we have a group that can do it. It’s not going to be an easy task but we will be ready.”
Durant 4 16 4 12 – 36
West Branch 11 24 17 24 – 76
Durant (36) – Nolan DeLong 9-23 4-4 24, Caden Meyer 0-3 0-0 0, Mason Badtram 0-2 0-0 0, Garrett Hollenback 5-11 0-1 10, Drake Roach 0-1 0-0 0, Colyn Dean 0-3 0-0 0, Charlie Huesmann 0-1 0-0 0, Elliott Fortin 0-1 0-0 0, Braun Ollie 0-1 0-0 0, Connor Schwarz 0-1 0-0 0, Grant Hein 0-1 2-2 2, Totals 14-48 6-7 36.
West Branch (76) – Carver Boelk 2-4 0-0 5, Holden Arnaman 15-24 2-2 41, Cameron Gingerich 0-1 0-0 0, Jack McCullough 1-4 0-0 2, Trenton Schutte 0-1 0-0 0, Andy Henson 3-5 0-0 6, Reese Trepanier 6-8 0-0 14, Cole Crosthwaite 0-0 2-4 2, Pedro Mitom 1-2 0-0 3, Lu Guetzko 1-2 0-0 3, Totals 29-51 4-6 76.
3-point field goals – WB 14-26 (Boelk 1-3, Arnaman 9-13, Gingerich 0-1, McCullough 0-2, Trepanier 2-3, Mitom 1-2, Guetzko 1-2), DUR 2-13 (DeLong 2-8, Meyer 0-2, Dean 0-1, Fortin 0-1). Rebounds – WB 37 (Trepanier 9), DUR 19 (DeLong, Meyer, Hollenback 3). Turnovers – WB 12, DUR 12. Total fouls – WB 9, DUR 10. Fouled out – None. Technical fouls – None.