Prep Basketball

Pivotal win has West Branch on the brink of RVC South title: Girls' basketball notes

Bears in control of the River Valley Conference South Division race

Sasha Koenig, West Branch
Sasha Koenig, West Branch

March is the climax to the girls’ basketball season. But March isn’t all that matters, not to Jarod Tylee, anyway.

“The other day, I took the kids to the gym where our last (conference-championship) banner is hanging,” said Tylee, the coach at West Branch.

For the record, that banner is dated 2013, from the Cedar Valley Conference, a league that no longer exists.

Tuesday night, West Branch took a big step toward another title, defeating West Liberty, 58-41. That sent the Class 2A sixth-rated Bears (16-3 overall) to 15-2 in the River Valley Conference, a game ahead of West Liberty (16-3, 14-3) in the South Division race.

“It was tight in the first half, but we started stretching the lead in the third quarter,” Tylee said. “We started getting some stops and making shots.”

Sasha Koenig led the Bears with 23 points and five assists. Taya Young added 11 points.

“We shot it a ton better (24 of 48 from the floor) than we had been,” Tylee said. “And our defense has continued to improve throughout the season.

“We try to put pressure on the other team with our guards, then we have good length at the back end of our defense to help us.”

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The Bears close out RVC play with games against Mid-Prairie (Friday, home) and Iowa City Regina (Tuesday, away).

“For our program, a league title is the first thing we set out for,” Tylee said. “And if you’re in the hunt, you’re putting yourself in position for a good postseason.”

MVC unbeateans collide

Class 5A top-ranked Iowa City High (16-0, 11-0) and No. 6 Cedar Rapids Prairie (16-1, 12-0) have been the Mississippi Valley Conference headliners all season.

Both reside in the Mississippi Division, so Friday’s game at City High is a de facto divisional-title showdown.

“I think it’s going to be a really exciting game,” Prairie’s Mallory McDermott said. “It’s going to come down to defense.”

McDermott is averaging 23.2 points per game; Sidney McCrea adds 18.6 for Prairie. City High counters with Aubrey Joens (20.3 ppg), Rose Nkumu (15.1) and Paige Rocca (11.3).

All five are Division-I signees.

City High won last year’s matchup, 62-36.

“We got embarrassed. It was over at halftime,” Prairie Coach Josh Bentley said. “I just want to have a chance. That’s all we can ask for.

“We need to get off to a better start. The last three games, we were down 15-4, 15-2 and 11-0. We’ve got to get out of that habit, or it will be a long night.”

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Conference, division titles wrapped up

North Linn (17-1, 12-0) clinched the outright championship of the Tri-Rivers West Division with a 69-39 rout of East Buchanan on Tuesday. It’s the fourth straight title for the Lynx, who shared the crown with Maquoketa Valley last year.

 Once 0-2, MFL MarMac (18-2, 15-1) has run off 18 straight wins and owns the Upper Iowa Conference title for the third straight year.

 Cascade (18-0, 17-0) has clinched a share of the RVC North, and can win it outright with a win over Monticello on Friday or Durant on Saturday.

Comments: (319) 368-8857; jeff.linder@thegazette.com

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