WASHINGTON — Van Buren County High School girls basketball coach couldn’t sum up West Branch any better.
“They shot good,” he said. “And we didn’t.”
The sixth-ranked Bears knocked down eight 3-pointers, and Bradley commit Sasha Koenig scored 19 points to lead West Branch to a 58-38 Class 2A regional final win over the Warriors Wednesday at Washington High School.
Taryn Scheuermann scored a game-high 20 points for Van Buren County (21-4), which has yet to qualify for the state tournament despite numerous close calls in the past. West Branch (21-3) will face Western Christian Wednesday at 11:45 a.m. at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
“They play a new style of basketball where they have four guards who shoot,” Zeitler said. “We’re old school. That 3-pointer either helps a great deal, or it murders you. Tonight it helped them.”
The game was an uphill climb for the Warriors almost from the tip. Both teams struggled to score early, but Van Buren County couldn’t solve West Branch’s pressure defense. Once it did, the Warriors appeared disjointed running halfcourt offense.
Scheuermann had to work hard for her points, but there were plenty of missed layups throughout the game that could have ignited a rally. She scored all the Warriors’ points in the second quarter, but a clutch three by West Branch’s Taya Young put the Bears up 25-17 at halftime.
The Bears still led by just eight going into the fourth, but didn’t surrender a field goal until more than four minutes had gone. Koenig took over the fourth, scoring nine straight points to push the Bears’ lead to 46-30.
Lexi Jirak’s 3-pointer was the Warriors’ only basket of the quarter, in which they were outscored 21-9.
“The problem is we just haven’t seen enough pressure defense this year, and our kids got a little rattled,” Zeitler said. “They just beat us tonight. They’re a very good team.”
Young scored 15 points for the Bears, while Taylor Thein added 10. Koenig scored 14 of her points in the second half.
“She’s a pretty good player,” Zeitler said. “They shot the ball well tonight.”
This group of Van Buren County seniors is among the most prolific in school history. The Warriors won 75 games over the last four years, won divisional championships in the SEI Superconference and reached the cusp of state multiple times. And much of the same group qualified for the state volleyball tournament for the first time last fall.
But Zeitler is proud of who his players are. Scheuermann, Grace Davidson, Chloe Davidson, Madison Bartholomew, Salena Sayre, Sydney Zollars and Jirak played their final game.
“It’s unique when you have kids who are home-grown in Van Buren County. They’re tough kids who are great kids in the community,” he said. “It’s just too bad we couldn’t get it done because I believe we’re a top eight team.
“It’s just not going to happen for them,” he said. “And that stinks, because these things go in tremendous cycles.”