Sometimes, a postseason path is smooth. Sometimes, it’s not.
For West Branch, it’s not.
Sometimes, when a bump comes, you survive it and land on your feet. Sometimes, you don’t.
West Branch did.
“When you have a postseason run, sometimes you’re going to get one of these,” Bears Coach Jarod Tylee said, referring to his team’s 41-37 escape act against Pella Christian in the Class 2A girls’ basketball regional semifinals. “You hope it’s a character builder, and you hope it prepares you for tight situations that are still to come.”
Who knows? Another one might be coming Wednesday. That’s when the third-ranked Bears (19-1) face archrival Iowa City Regina (12-7) in a 2A regional final at Williamsburg. Tipoff is 7 p.m.
It’s one of six go-to-state-or-go-home matchups that involve area teams. Also in 2A, No. 1 Maquoketa Valley (22-0) faces Dyersville Beckman (13-10) at Manchester, and No. 5 North Linn (20-2) — the defending state champion — meets No. 6 Bellevue (20-1) at Cascade.
In 1A, No. 6 Montezuma (21-1) goes after its fourth straight state appearance against No. 12 Collins-Maxwell (22-1) at Pleasantville, No. 8 Springville (20-4) battles No. 10 Burlington Notre Dame (19-1) at Muscatine, and Turkey Valley (19-5) tangles with No. 3 Saint Ansgar (21-1) at New Hampton.
West Branch swept Regina in the regular season by verdicts of 52-36 and 63-45, but Tylee and Regina Coach Mary Halvorson felt both contests were closer than the scores reflect.
“We weren’t exactly neck-and-neck, but we were within 10 and nine at the end of the third quarter of both games,” Halvorson said. “We had some mental lapses, and didn’t stay in rhythm.”
Tylee said, “Both games were close for three, 3 1/2 quarters before we started to pull away. We made some shots when we needed.”
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The Bears are a veteran crew, with four senior starters, led by Bradley University commit Sasha Koenig. But the Regals won’t exactly try to slow things down.
“Last year, we wanted to play a half-court game,” Halvorson said. “Now, it’s push, push, push. We have athletes.”
All three Tri-Rivers Conference West Division heavyweights face intriguing tests:
• Maquoketa Valley faces a dangerous Beckman outfit that already knocked off two ranked opponents.
• North Linn meets Bellevue in the state’s lone game pitting a pair of top-eight teams.
• Playing in its seventh straight regional final, Springville faces a tough draw in surging Notre Dame.
“They have a lot of shooters, and if they are hitting the 3, they’re going to be really dangerous,” Springville Coach Christina Zaruba said. “If not, rebounding is going to be crucial.
“If we can handle their pressure and get into our offense, we’ll be OK. We haven’t had a game in which all five of our kids are hitting at the same time. We could sure use that (Wednesday).”
Wednesday's Class 2A regional finals
REGION 1: No. 1 Maquoketa Valley (22-0) vs. Dyersville Beckman (13-10)
Time and site: 7 p.m., at Manchester
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Overview: Victories over ranked teams Cascade and Sumner-Fredericksburg have Beckman on the brink of its first state appearance in school history, but an even bigger challenge awaits. Maquoketa Valley allows 27.5 points per game, the second-lowest rate in Class 2A, and nobody has scored more than 41 against the Wildcats. The senior trio of Ella Imler, Taya Tucker and Emerson Whittenbaugh accounts for 40.6 points per contest. Maquoketa Valley is the champion of the Tri-Rivers Conference West Division. Beckman has won seven straight games, and has been steeled by a Wamac Conference schedule that has consisted mostly of 4A and 3A opponents. Senior Kennedy Arens leads the Blazers at 15.4 points per game, and junior Lauren Osterhaus adds 10.5.
BC Moore computer projection: Maquoketa Valley by 12
REGION 3: No. 3 West Branch (19-1) vs. Iowa City Regina (12-7)
Time and site: 7 p.m., at Williamsburg
Overview: West Branch has rattled off 16 straight victories, but it almost came crashing down in the regional semifinals, where the Bears had to scratch and claw out a 41-37 escape against Pella Christian. The Bears have two triumphs (52-36 and 63-45) against Regina this year, and need one more to sew up their second straight state trip. Senior Sasha Koenig, who will join older sister Tatum at Bradley University next year, averages 21.0 points and 5.4 assists, while junior Delaynie Luneckas — the lone non-senior starter — adds 11.7 points and 9.6 rebounds. Regina won a pair of road games, against Mediapolis and Van Buren County, to get to this point. Senior Annie Gahan (15.5 ppg) and sophomore Grace Gaarde (9.6) are the Regals’ top weapons.
BC Moore computer projection: West Branch by 19
REGION 4: No. 5 North Linn (20-2) vs. No. 6 Bellevue (20-1)
Time and site: 7 p.m., at Cascade
Overview: This is the state’s only regional-final encounter, in any class, in which two top-eight teams collide. Defending 2A state champion North Linn overcame the loss of four senior starters to compile its 11th consecutive season of 20-plus victories. Both of the Lynx’s setbacks have come at the hands of 2A top-ranked Maquoketa Valley in Tri-Rivers Conference West Division action. North Linn’s scoring average of 63.8 points per game ranks second in 2A (behind Nodaway Valley), and it’s been an all-hands-on-deck proposition, with five players averaging at least 8.7 points per game, led by freshman Kamryn Kurt (13.0 ppg) and senior Ellie Ware (12.2 ppg, 9.8 rpg). The champion of the River Valley Conference North Division, Bellevue seeks its first state appearance since 2012 behind senior Teresa Paulsen (12.1 ppg, 7.7 rpg).
BC Moore computer projection: North Linn by 3
Region 2: No. 9 Denver (18-4) vs. No. 8 Grundy Center (18-3), at Waterloo West
Region 5: Avoca AHSTW (17-6) vs. No. 4 Nodaway Valley (22-0), at Atlantic
Region 6: No. 14 West Hancock (19-5) vs. No. 2 Dike-New Hartford (22-0), at Hampton
Region 7: Rock Valley (15-9) vs. Emmetsburg (15-8), at Hartley
Region 8: No. 15 Underwood (19-3) vs. No. 10 Treynor (19-4), at Council Bluffs Lewis Central
Wednesday's Class 1A regional finals
REGION 3: Turkey Valley (19-5) vs. No. 3 Saint Ansgar (21-1)
Time and site: 7 p.m., at New Hampton
Overview: Saint Ansgar welcomed back four starters from last year’s 1A state-semifinal team, and the Saints have been nearly perfect. Their lone loss was a one-pointer to Osage in mid-January, and nine straight victories have followed. Senior Hali Anderson has her fingerprints all over the team’s success, averaging 14.1 points, 4.7 rebounds, 6.6 assists and 5.3 steals per contest. Saint Ansgar’s 32.6-point defensive rate is fourth-best in 1A. Turkey Valley is on a nine-game win streak, and is 10-0 against 1A competition this season. Among the Trojans’ victories is a double-overtime decision over Waukon, which already has qualified for state in Class 3A. Senior Ali Hoffert leads the way at 19.0 points and 8.2 rebounds, and shoots 79.7 percent from the free-throw line.
BC Moore computer projection: Saint Ansgar by 11
REGION 5: No. 8 Springville (20-4) vs. No. 10 Burlington Notre Dame (19-1)
Time and site: 7 p.m., at Muscatine
Overview: Springville is making its seventh consecutive regional-final appearance, and that recent run consists of five state-tournament berths and three championships. The Orioles’ four losses have come against 2A powers Maquoketa Valley and North Linn. Junior Lauren Wilson is an all-around force, averaging 17.3 points, 10.2 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 3.7 blocks per game. Classmate Morgan Nachazel adds 12.6 points per contest. Notre Dame is on an 18-game victory tour, and the Nikes avenged an early 36-point loss to 3A state qualifier West Burlington, 75-53. They whipped No. 9 Winfield-Mount Union, 61-33, in the regional semis and average 65.9 points per game, led by junior Megan Harrell (15.9 ppg), senior Karli Artman (13.2 ppg) and junior Katy Stephens (11.5), the latter two of whom were on Notre Dame’s state-championship volleyball team in November.
BC Moore computer projection: Burlington Notre Dame by 10
REGION 6: No. 6 Montezuma (21-1) vs. No. 12 Collins-Maxwell (22-1)
Time and site: 7 p.m., at Pleasantville
Overview: Montezuma has enjoyed vast success in Janel Burgess’ four years in coaching her alma mater. The Bravettes are 96-9 under Burgess and are chasing their fourth straight state-tournament trip. The long-range ability of sisters Elise Boulton (senior) and Mia Boulton (sophomore) has been a strength this season. Montezuma averages 9.4 3-pointers per game, and the Boultons combine to shoot about 40 percent from deep. Elise averages 16.9 points per game, and three others — Mia, junior Shanae Wetering and senior Dylan Holland — join her as double-digit scorers. The Bravettes have won 21 straight games. After splitting regular-season games with Baxter in the regular season, Collins-Maxwell prevailed in a regional-semifinal rubber match, and is a win away from its first state appearance. Senior Reagan Franzen posts 19.2 points, 10.0 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game. Both teams are in the 1A top three in defensive average — Collins-Maxwell at 28.0 ppg, Montezuma at 30.3.
BC Moore computer projection: Montezuma by 11
Region 1: Conrad BCLUW (15-9) vs. No. 1 Algona Garrigan (22-1), at Mason City
Region 2: Anita CAM (17-6) vs. No. 2 Newell-Fonda (22-1), at Jefferson
Region 4: Council Bluffs St. Albert (10-12) vs. No. 7 Kingsley-Pierson (22-1), at Denison
Region 7: Westwood (19-4) vs. Marcus MMCRU (20-2), at Sioux City West
Region 8: No. 11 Lenox (20-3) vs. No. 4 Exira-EHK (22-0), at Winterset
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