The two halves were eerily similar, and that wasn’t a good thing for West Branch as the Bears fell 57-48 at North Cedar. With the victory, the new-look Knights successfully defended their conference championship.
The Bears (11-3 CVC, 16-4 overall) owned the first and third quarters and 10th-ranked North Cedar (13-1, 18-3) controlled the second and fourth with a combination of 3-point shooting in the second and free-throw shooting in the fourth.
North Cedar built a 31-24 halftime lead by taking advantage of its offensive rebounding and by blanketing Rylan Murry on defense.
The Knights scored 11 points off offensive rebounds in the first half, many coming after 3-point shots went awry. The Bears were in a zone defense and sometimes it’s hard to find a body to block out but time after time the Knights got second chances.
North Cedar also frustrated the 6-8 Murry with a zone and a chaser most of the way. Murry, who averages 25 points a game, shot the ball four times in the first half and had four points. Post Cody Brandt carried the load with 10 first-half points. The Bears made 10-of-23 shots.
The Knights were 0-for-4 from 3-point range in the first quarter but hit 3-of-5 in the second including an off-balance shot from deep in the corner with just a couple seconds left in the period to send the Knights to the locker room on a burst of momentum.
North Cedar also got away with early foul trouble to its stellar sophomore forward, Jayden Johnson.
The Knights actually built the lead with Johnson on the bench for much of the first half after two early fouls. North Cedar was 13-of-27 in the half.
West Branch charged out of the locker room to take the lead, 35-33, scoring in five of its first six possessions and led 41-40 after three quarters. But North Cedar made 10 of 11 foul shots in the final quarter while West Branch had trouble hanging onto the ball and committed four costly turnovers. The Bears also were hurt by Brandt’s foul trouble in the second half.
WEST BRANCH (48) – Mason Hays 2-5 2-2 7, Lucas Lamont 2-6 0-1 6, Rylan Murry 7-12 0-0 14, Cole Cook 1-4 2-3 4, Cody Brandt 7-9 0-3 14, Mike Gould 1-1 1-2 3, Branden Shortt 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 20-38 5-11.
NORTH CEDAR (57) – Josh Kintzel 3-7 0-0 7, Marshall Shedeck 5-12 6-7 17, Jacob Hay 5-8 0-0 13, Grant Pruess 1-3 0-02, Jayden Johnson 2-7 8-10 12, Seth Hamilton 0-3 0-0 0, Andrew Fields 2-5 2-2 6. Totals 18-45 16-19.
3-point goals – West Branch 3-12 (Hays 1-3, Lamot 2-6, Murry 0-3 ), North Cedar 5-17 (Kintzel 1-4, Shedeck 1-3, Hay 3-5, Pruess 0-2, Johnson 0-1, Hamilton 0-2). Total fouls – West Branch 15, North Cedar 13. Fouled out – none.