AUSTINTOWN - The West Branch Warriors girls basketball team has had its way so far in the Division II tournament dominating opponents 124-36 in its first two sectional games.
Tuesday's game against Ravenna presented a bit more of competitive challenge, but the Warriors started to pull away late in the first quarter and then kept the Ravens at bay in a 56-31 victory in a Div. II district semifinal at Austintown Fitch.
With the victory, the Warriors (21-4) have advanced to their fourth consecutive district final. Unfortunately they have come up short in their other three previous appearances. They'll need to get past the Struthers Wildcats on Friday night at Austintown Fitch if they are to accomplish that goal.
"I know that we are all going to play hard and we really want to get this one," senior Amanda Linhart said. "I really want to get this one. I know the seniors want it more than anything right now. I know we are going practice hard and play hard on Friday."
Those seniors include Linhart, Taryn Hahn, Allie Garrett and Lauren Martig who have experienced the disappointment of the past three years. The Warriors lost to Canfield the past two years, and to Struthers back in 2011. The past two years have been heart-breaking three point and two point losses.
As a senior Linhart points out that they have learned a lot from those disappointments.
"Every possession counts. When you lose a game like that you go back and think about the things you could have done differently. Two point game, three point game, it could have been anything anywhere, so you just got to take advantage of all the shot opportunities that you get and play really good defense."
"We can't worry about the last three years, those are over. We can't go back and change anything that happened. We faced two good Canfield teams in a row and then Struthers three years ago, so it's been us three. We know what Struthers is about. We scrimmaged them a little bit in the summer," Warriors head coach Walt DeShields said.
"Our mind set is to celebrate a little bit tonight and go back tomorrow and get to work on Struthers. I'll probably will be watching some film tonight. John (Grandy) is a great coach over there, and I'm sure he will have his girls well prepared for Friday night and we're hoping to do the same."
The Warriors can celebrate due to strong performances by Pavin Heath with 19 points and Melinda Trimmer with 18, while Erica Johnson led the Warriors with seven rebounds and Linhart grabbed another 6. As a team the Warriors outrebounded the Ravens 27-17.
The Warriors seemed to separate themselves from the Ravens late in the first quarter when they went on a 12-0 run to close the period. The run was helped by two consecutive three point plays by Trimmer and Hahn when they scored and were fouled. Those old-fashioned three point plays gave the Warriors a 18-5 lead at the end of the stanza.
The Warriors held a comfortable 34-15 lead at the halftime intermission. Then, midway through the third quarter the Warriors would push their advantage to 21-points at 41-20 when Trimmer connected on a three-point shot. They continued to pull away in the forth as they went up by as much a 24-points at 49-25 early in the stanza.
"We came out on fire. You have those nights," DeShields said. "Our girls prepared really, really well for this game. I think we did a great job defensively taking away a lot of their sets.
"I'm really happy that we came with such a good start. Earlier in the season, regular season, we would get ourselves in a whole. We were down by nine or 10 at halftime, and we would have to battle back in the second half. We didn't want to have to do that tonight. We got off to a good start, that was a big key," Linhart said.
Ravenna closes the year with a 18-7 mark.
WEST BRANCH: 18-16-11-11-56
RAVENNA SCORING: Autumn Retherford 0-0-0, Ja'Lynn Starks 3-1-8, Deja Sanders 3-2-9, Taylor Geib 3-0-6, Fallon Schwab-Davis 2-0-5, Nicole Simpson 0-0-0, Sarah Long 1-0-3. TEAM TOTALS: 12, 3-6: 31.
WEST BRANCH SCORING: Melinda Trimmer 5-7-18, Pavin Health 8-1-19, Amanda Linhart 1-1-3, Taryn Hahn 4-1-9, Erica Johnson 0-4-4, Mariah Herbert 1-1-3. TEAM TOTALS: 16, 14-19: 56
Three-point goals: Ravenna 4 (Starks, Sanders, Schwab-Davis, Long), West Branch 3 (Trimmer, Heath 2).