Sasha Koenig’s wrist showed no rust. Ditto for Taya Young.
The sophomore duo combined for 54 points, hitting all eight of their shots from long distance, as West Branch opened its girls’ basketball season with a 76-43 River Valley Conference home win over Durant.
“We started a little slow, but as the game moved along, our defense started creating our offense,” West Branch Coach Jarod Tylee said. “Sasha does such a good job creating her own shot, and creating shots for others.”
Koenig hit 9 of 11 shots — including 6 of 6 from 3-point range — and 7 of 9 free throws in a 31-point performance. Factor in four assists and five steals, and that’s quite a night.
She is the younger sister of former all-stater Tatum Koenig, who graduated last year and now plays at Bradley University.
“Sasha is going to have to step up and be more of a leader for us,” Tylee said. “She’s our point guard, she makes us go, so she’s got a lot on her shoulders.”
Young added 23 points Tuesday. She made 9 of 12 field-goal tries (2 of 2 from distance) and all three of her free throws.
“She’s more of a stand-still shooter, and she got a lot of open looks,” Tylee said. “Our defense led to a lot of run-outs.”
West Branch has been a consistent winner for the past decade, sharing a Cedar Valley Conference championship in 2013. But the Bears have lived in the shadow of Iowa City Regina, which has won or shared 10 consecutive league titles — in the River Valley Conference South Division and, before that, the CVC.
West Branch and Wilton are considered Regina’s most legitimate challengers this season.
“Until we prove ourselves, those other teams are the ones to beat,” Tylee said.
The Bears host Northeast on Friday.
Prairie-West highlights MVC openers
The Mississippi Valley Conference opens shop as a 16-team girls’ basketball league Friday, and the biggest game is at Iowa City West, where the defending Class 5A state-champion Women of Troy (1-0) face Cedar Rapids Prairie (1-1) in a top-10 matchup.
No. 8 West opened its season Saturday with a 72-51 win over Davenport Assumption. Four players scored in double figures, led by Lauren Zacharias with 17 points.
Prairie, ranked seventh, rolled past Muscatine in its opener, 48-22, then suffered a last-second 56-54 defeat to 4A No. 1 Marion on Saturday. Sidney McCrea is averaging 21.5 points per game and shooting 68 percent from the field.
Western Dubuque and Iowa City Liberty are making their MVC debuts this season. A former Wamac member, Western Dubuque (2-1) is at Waterloo West (0-0), and Liberty (1-0) — an independent last season in its first year of existence — hosts Cedar Rapids Washington (1-0).
The MVC season consists of 15 games on the girls’ side (18 for the boys). Dec. 7, Dec. 14 and Dec. 21 are designated as dates that do not count toward MVC standings.
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