By JON RUDDER
BELOIT - Young teams have a tendency to go through growing pains. For the West Branch Warriors, Saturday night's 51-36 win over rival Salem was just that. Inconsistent play plagued the Warriors, but they were ultimately able to earn their 15th victory of the season.
"The first 16 minutes were pretty awesome, we played a pretty good first half," West Branch coach Walt DeShields said. "We executed at the offensive and we shot the ball well. We did some really great things in the first half."
On the other hand, Melinda Trimmer sparked the Warriors with 22 points - 13 of which were scored in the second half.
"It helps a lot when I start out early hitting shots it makes the game easier as it goes on," Trimmer said. "When I'm not hitting, I know that I have all of my other teammates that I can count on to hit shots. I always look for them."
The Warriors (15-2, 9-2 in the Northeastern Buckeye Conference) were sound defensively through the first two quarters, forcing turnovers and limiting the Quakers post players down low.
"Defensively we had great rotations great talk And we really didn't allow their bigs to have many good looks," DeShields said. "Against Salem the biggest issue we had were the two girls inside they are physical, they're both seniors and when they catch the ball on the block, it's pretty much money."
Lindsey Foster and Ciera Trybend scored eight points each for the Quakers (4-12, 4-8). Six of Trybend's eight came in the second half, where DeShields was most apprehensive about his team's defensive performance. Foster also led the Quakers with seven rebounds.
The lack of focus that DeSheilds saw from his players in the second half was most troubling.
"It's just the lack of focus, but we got a win and we set ourselves up for a big game against Carrollton on Wednesday," DeShields said. "It should be a pretty exciting game and there should be a big crowd here.
West Branch used a three-point assault to stake themselves to an early lead over the Quakers.
They would never relinquish it.
Melinda Trimmer and Pavin Heath connected on a trio of three-pointers to give the Warriors a 13-3 lead before Salem head coach Renee Farina called her first timeout.
"The first half obviously was very frustrating but we came out in the second half," Salem coach Renee Farina said. "We really won the half, that fourth-quarter was 16-7, so I think when our girls just kind of relaxed and went out and played, they played much better and executed much better."
Heath added six more, three from beyond the arc and three on a basket and a foul to open the second to push the Warrior lead out to 20 points just three minutes into the frame.
The 5-10 sophomore finished with 14 points and also pulled down four rebounds.
West Branch allowed just five points throughout the whole first quarter, and held the Quakers scoreless for a span of nearly five minutes.
The Warriors pressured the Quakers, making use of a full-court press to attempt to force turnovers. Salem had success breaking the pressure, but couldn't muster much of an offense once they got into a half court set.
"We broke the press very easily which is a big improvement from last year," Farina said. "However, once we got it past half court we had trouble scoring. That has been something we have been working, on breaking the press, but scoring has been tough on us all season."
West Branch opened up the second half and couldn't translate the success they had in the first 16 minutes.
"The second half, this is a learning experience. We talk a lot about finishing the game and having a little bit of killer instinct," DeShields said. "To be a great basketball team you can't have letdowns. Salem outplayed us in the second half they came out and they did not give up. Credit to them, they got the ball to their bigs."
The Quakers didn't fare much better in the second, as they saw the Warriors lead baloon to 20 points before the half drew to a close. Salem's total offensive output was the result of a 6-0 run through a stretch of 1:16. Aside from that span, it was tough to find much consistency on that end of the floor for the Quakers.
Those second half woes that plagued his team on Friday night were concerning with tough match-ups against Carrollton and Louisville on the horizon. Couple those two big games with tournament season quickly approaching, there is still much work to be done for his team.
"When things slow down and sometimes in big tournament games, we have talked about the importance of executing half-court sets," DeShields said. "We've been in these big games the last couple of years so hopefully that experience will help them prepare for the next coming games."
With just two seniors on the roster, DeShields hopes that the valuable playing time the girls earned last season, particularly in crucial situations, will pay dividends as they move forward.
"That experience against Canfield in the district championship where a lot of the girls on this team played in that game," DeShields said. "They know how to prepare and know it's going to take more than 32 minutes on the floor."
Trimmer collected five of her team's seven total points in the fourth, and her three-point play at 2:17 capped her 22 point night, as she exited to the bench with the rest of the starters to the delight of the crowd. She finished just one point shy of her career-high of 23, set earlier this season.
"We as a team and coaching staff want to thank our fans For the great support we have had all season and hopefully they come out Wednesday night. Which I'm sure they will," Trimmer said.
Taryn Hahn added six points and pulled down four rebounds for the Warriors. Erica Johnson also added four rebounds in the win for West Branch.
SALEM: 5- 6- 9-16-36
W. BRANCH: 19-12-13- 7-51
WEST BRANCH SCORING: Brittany Bryte 0-0-0, Kyla Sharp 0-0-0, Melinda Trimmer 9-2-22, Emily Menegay 0-0-0, Kaylee Manning 0-0-0, Pavin Heath 4-3-14, Amanda Linhart 2-2-7, Allie Garrett 0-0-0, Paige Walsh 0-0-0, Taryn Hahn 3-0-6, Erica Johnson 0-0-0, Lea Bock 1-0-2. TOTALS: 19, 7-11: 51.
SALEM SCORING: Tori Jones 2-0-6, Megan Lehwald 3-0-8, Katherine Stiff 1-1-3, Lindsey Foster 4-0-8, Ciera Trybend 4-0-8, Rylee Meals 1-1-3, Raegan Meals 0-0-0, Olivia Stiff 0-0-0, Rylee Leider 0-0-0.
Three-pointers: Salem 4 (Jones 2, Lehwald 2), West Branch 6 (Heath 3, Trimmer 2, Linhart).