Branch blasts Rockets

AUSTINTOWN – West Branch used its killer instinct to help put away Streetsboro, 80-42, for a Division II sectional title Saturday at Austintown Fitch High School.

“I thought we started out slow,” sophomore Melinda Trimmer said. “But once we realized we weren’t playing well, we just took responsibility and wanted to come out strong in the second quarter.”

Trimmer paced the Warriors with a game-high 25 points, seven assists and five steals. Pavin Heath added 15 points and Taryn Hahn chipped in 10 points and five rebounds.

The Warriors’ sluggish started resulted in several missed free throws and key shots through the game’s opening minutes. That listlessness wore off quickly as the Warriors began to heat up as the first half wore on.

While offense lacked, defense did not, and West Branch kept the Rockets from lifting off by limiting offensive chances.

“Defensively I thought we did a great job early in the game, when we could have put our heads down,” West Branch coach Walt DeShields said. “We kept playing hard down there, keeping the game right were it needed to be until we got going.”

The Warriors’ defensive tenacity doesn’t just begin when the girls step foot on the floor. Hours of preparation beforehand play a hand into the success seen on the floor.

“We study the scouting report a lot in practice and review what we can do know our opponent,” Trimmer said. “So that helps with stopping the other team”

And with the girls buying into that system, a combined effort

“They (the girls) really take advantage of our scouting and coaches that get out there and put the time in to put together that scouting report to put together some strengths on the other team,” DeShields said. “It’s those little things that help you win the bigger games, you have to make teams adjust and make teams try to counter.”

West Branch has won 11 straight games to improve to 22-2 on the season. The second-seeded Warriors advance to play fifth-seeded Poland in the district semifinals at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.

With the defense serving as the anchor for the Warriors on Saturday afternoon, patience and persistence paved a way for an awakening for the offense.

“We struggled early and missed some layups and some open shots that we normally make,” DeShields said. “We knew that eventually we would get going offensively, we’re too good not to.”

It didn’t take long for the Warriors to heat up. Pavin Heath, Brittany Bryte and Trimmer each connected on multiple three-pointers to quickly burgeon their seven-point lead after one quarter to as many as 26 points in the second quarter.

“Melinda and Pavin got us going there and that’s nice for our big girls to get involved,” DeShields said. “Lea Bock had been battling on the boards. Taryn Hahn scored double figures today. Anytime our posts can record double digits and hit the boards for us, and give us second shot opportunities, we’re usually going to cash in with a second or third opportunity.”

The Rockets closed out the half on a 8-2 run to bring the score to 38-18 at the half, but the second half was where the Warriors clamped down defensively. West Branch allowed just four points throughout the entire frame,

“We work really hard in practice on defense and that’s one of our main goals, to stop them,” Trimmer said. “Anytime we hold them to under double digits in a quarter, it’s a good thing.”

“Early in the game, you have to learn what the girl’s best move is, or who their better player is,” DeShields said. “Even though you go over that, the girls still have to see it live, you can watch as much tape as you want, but until you get out there between the lines and see how quick that girls is then you adjust to it and I thought our girls adjusted to it very well.”

Shannon Blondeaux paced the Rockets with nine points while Marra Woods contributed eight points.

Poland advanced with a 41-37 win over fourth-seeded Ravenna on Saturday.

“It’s important, no matter what kind of defense we see, to take care of the basketball on every possession,” DeShields said. “Each game gets tougher and you know it’s going to get tougher offensively to score and tougher to stop teams. So points will be very limited.”