Prep Basketball

West Branch girls' basketball stands alone atop River Valley South with win over West Liberty

Early 18-0 run propels the Bears to a 55-43 divisional win

Sasha Koenig, West Branch
Sasha Koenig, West Branch

WEST BRANCH — According to Jarod Tylee, it’s no longer proper to call West Liberty an “up-and-coming” girls’ basketball team.

“No, not any more,” said Tylee, the coach at West Branch.

He lifted his hand to shoulder level.

“They’re right here, right now.”

If so, the Bears are somewhere around eye level, at least.

Class 2A seventh-ranked West Branch jolted the 3A No. 11 Comets with an 18-0 first-quarter blitz, kept the margin in double figures the rest of the way, and coasted to a 55-43 River Valley Conference victory Tuesday night at West Branch High School.

“Our press was effective,” Tylee said. “We were able to get some tipped balls out of it.”

Tipped balls turned into West Liberty turnovers — 27 in all.

“You can’t give the ball to a team like that over and over,” Comets Coach Matt Hoeppner said. “Then, when we would get closer, they counter-punched.”

But the big haymaker came early, putting the Bears (9-2 overall, 8-1 division) in command, 18-3. They led, 37-20, at intermission and ultimately moved into sole possession of the RVC South Division lead, a game ahead of the Comets.

The teams will square off again Feb. 4 at West Liberty.

“Our coaches let us know, that’s a good team. Really scrappy,” said West Branch junior guard Sasha Koenig, who has three cousins who play for the Comets (9-2, 7-2). “We’re not going to just show up and beat them.”

The Bears stretched the lead to 54-33 early in the fourth quarter before West Liberty got within 11 with 3:56 left.

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West Branch’s two losses this season are to the top two teams in Class 2A — Cascade and West Hancock.

“I feel we’ve got a state-tournament team,” Koenig said. “We have the tools, the pieces we need.”

Koenig led all scorers with 14 points. Rylan Druecker added 10, and four other players scored six or more. Kaiya Luneckas grabbed 10 rebounds and was a key component on the Bears’ 1-2-2, three-quarter-court press.

Janey Gingerich led West Liberty with 10 points. Despite the loss, the Comets are well on their way to their first winning season in decades.

WEST BRANCH 55, WEST LIBERTY 43

At West Branch

WEST LIBERTY (43): Sailor Hall 3-10 1-2 7, Finley Hall 2-4 0-0 6, Macy Daufeldt 3-8 1-1 9, Janey Gingerich 4-4 1-3 10, Averi Goodale 2-3 0-4 4, Haylee Lehman 2-3 1-2 7. Totals 16-32 4-12 43.

WEST BRANCH (55): Mackenzie Heise 3-5 0-0 6, Sasha Koenig 5-9 0-0 14, Rylan Druecker 4-13 0-0 10, Kaiya Luneckas 3-8 0-1 6, Taylor Thein 3-9 0-0 8, Delaynie Luneckas 1-4 0-0 2, Taya Young 3-9 2-4 9. Totals 22-57 2-5 55.

Halftime: West Branch 37, West Liberty 20. 3-point goals: West Liberty 7-13 (S. Hall 0-4, F. Hall 2-3, Daufeldt 2-3, Gingerich 1-1, Lehman 2-2), West Branch 9-27 (Koenig 4-7, Druecker 2-9, Thein 2-6, Young 1-5). Team fouls: West Liberty 10, West Branch 12. Fouled out: none. Rebounds: West Liberty 25 (Daufeldt 9), West Branch 33 (K. Luneckas 10). Assists: West Liberty 9 (S. Hall 3), West Branch 13 (Koenig 4). Steals: West Liberty 9 (S. Hall, Goodale 3), West Branch 13 (Young 4). Turnovers: West Liberty 27, West Branch 16.

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

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