BARBERTON-The West Branch Warriors couldn't help but get an extra jolt of energy when they took the court Tuesday at Barberton High School.
What was supposed to be a neutral site had morphed into a de facto Warrior home game for their Division II regional semifinal against Parma Heights Holy Name, as West Branch supporters far outdistanced their Holy Name counterparts in both attendance and decibel level.
The Warriors fed off of their boisterous crowd on the way to a spirited 61-49 win over the Green Wave Tuesday.
"The crowd is everything to us right now," West Branch junior Melinda Trimmer said. "Once we got them going the momentum swing was huge, we just wanted to try and keep them in it and feed off their energy the whole night."
West Branch (23-4) led after every quarter and advances to face Akron St. Vincent St. Mary (19-2) in the Barberton Regional Final at 2 p.m. Saturday.
Trimmer turned in her usual effort from the point guard spot, scoring a game-high 24 points-including a 12-for-13 effort from the foul line-while dishing out four assists.
She had help all over the roster, as seven players scored at least three points. Pavin Heath nailed three pivotal three-pointers to finish with 11 points. Amanda Linhart also finished with six assists.
"Seeing thousands of supporters relaxed the girls," West Branch coach Walt DeShields said. "They certainly fed off the energy. They played harder and moved around the court a lot better than most of the year."
The Warriors also got a massive effort in the rebounding department, out-battling the bigger Holy Name front line of Erica Davis and Kim Cook.
Erica Johnson had 10 rebounds, Taryn Hahn had six and Kaylee Manning and Amanda Linhart each pulled down five. West Branch outrebounded Holy Name 37-26.
"Our main concern was those two post players from Holy Name," DeShields said. "They are both very solid all-around players and for Erica, Taryn and Lea (Bock) to fight as hard as they did was outstanding."
"The whole team did a great job of boxing out and hustling after loose balls," Johnson said. "That was the best we've rebounded all season."
Cook led the Holy Name (22-4) with 14 points and 10 rebounds, while Davis had 12 points and five rebounds. The Green Wave got out to an early 7-3 lead, but after an 8-1 run, the Warriors would lead the rest of the night.
"We weren't nervous," Johnson said. "We knew we could get back into it."
West Branch began to get some separation in the second quarter. With Heath on the bench in foul trouble, the Warrior bench rose to the occasion with Manning and Lea Bock each making significant contributions. Just before halftime, Trimmer drew and electric response from the crowd, finding Manning on a fastbreak with a spot-on bounce pass to make the score 27-15.
"It goes back to rebounding," DeShields said. "We were able to limit their second-chance opportunities which helped us get out and run offensively."
The West Branch bench scored 11 points and grabbed nine rebounds while Holy Name got four points and five rebounds off the bench.
"Everyone on the team stepped up and did one thing better than they did the rest of the season and that was the difference," Trimmer said.
The Green Wave made a run in the third quarter, slicing the lead to 37-32 midway through the frame. However, Heath came to the rescue with two threes to close out the period. When she nailed her final one at the buzzer, the Warriors had a 49-36 lead and the crowd was at it's loudest. Trimmer helped seal the game away at the foul line in the final frame, as the Green Wave drew no closer than nine points.
"We are so proud to be one of eight teams left," DeShields said. "Basketball is a fun game to play when everything is clicking and our girls are having a lot of fun right now."
West Branch used four spirit buses to shuttle fans to the game. The Warriors filled nearly all of their side of the court, while their student section was nearly full.
"We want the community to know how appreciative the girls and the coaches were of their effort to put this together," DeShields said. "There are so many people to thank, but assistant principal Tim Fairfield was the biggest backer.
Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary beat Geneva, 45-33, in the other semifinal. The Warriors scrimmaged at Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary in October.
"The offered us and we jumped at it," DeShields said. "The girls were really excited to see the new gym that LeBron James paid for. I think we matched up well with them and it was a good experience."
Last year, the NBA superstar pledged $1 million for the complete renovation of his high school gymnasium.
Holy Name lost to the Irish, 66-48, in the regular season.
WEST BRANCH: 13-14-22-12-61
HOLY NAME: 11-6-19-13-49
WEST BRANCH SCORING: Melinda Trimmer 6-12-24, Pavin Heath 4-0-11, Amanda Linhart 1-1-3, Taryn Hahn 2-1-5, Erica Johnson 2-2-6, Kaylee Manning 2-2-6, Lea Bock 1-4-6, Lauren Martig 0-0-0, Paige Walsh 0-0-0, Allie Garrett 0-0-0. TEAM TOTALS: 18, 22-29: 61.
HOLY NAME SCORING: Samantha Day 1-1-3, Rachel Kucharczyk 2-0-6, Kim Cook 4-3-14, Jackie Corrigan 3-0-6, Erica Davis 6-3-15, Toni Dickson 1-3-5, Mary Ehrbar 0-0-0. TEAM TOTALS: 17, 10-18: 49.
Three-point goals: West Branch 3 (Heath 3), Holy Name 5 (Cook 3, Kucharczyk 2).