Hot-shooting Bears race past Columbus in quarterfinals

Hot-shooting Bears race past Columbus in quarterfinals


Hot-shooting Bears race past Columbus in quarterfinals


With senior and second-leading scorer Maddy Russell sidelined with an injury, West Branch coach Jarod Tylee told his team someone would need to step up in Tuesday’s district opener.

The Bears had a line of players waiting to do just that.

Haley Poula poured in a game-high 24 points, sophomore Paige Miller had a career-high 20 points and Allyson Simpson added 18 points as No. 15 West Branch raced by Columbus 77-51 in the Class 2A, Regional 5 quarterfinals.

“Playing without Maddy, it was very nice to see kids come in and step up,” Tylee said. “Paige Miller was awesome offensively and when we were patient and got the ball to Haley Poula she was awesome offensively. It was great, great to see kids step up.”

With Russell watching from the bench with a sprained ankle, West Branch shot 66 percent from the field on its way to a season-high 77 points and a spot in Friday’s Regional semifinals.

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The win was the sixth in a row for West Branch (17-5), which will travel to River Valley Conference foe Durant (15-7) for a Regional 5 semifinal Friday.

“Coach talked to us about stepping up but we wanted to pick it up for her,” Poula said of Russell. “She’s a senior and we wanted to give her another chance to play.”

Poula and Miller entered Tuesday averaging a combined 11.8 points per game.

The duo combined for 44 points against the Wildcats, missing one shot between them and hitting 20-of-21 shots from the field.

“I really wanted to step it up for (Russell) tonight,” Miller said. “I just had the mentality of slowing things down and making sure I got good, open shots.”

Miller helped West Branch get going early.

The sophomore guard scored six points in a span of 33 seconds to give West Branch a 9-0 lead two minutes into the game.

She was fouled making a 3-point field goal and converted the free throw and followed with a driving layup that forced a Columbus (16-7) timeout two minutes into the game.

“It was good to make my first shot, especially a 3-pointer because I’m not the best shooter,” Miller said. “That made me more confident right away.”

Miller had 10 points in the opening quarter as West Branch took an 18-8 lead.

The Bears built a 21-point second-quarter lead fueled by a 10-2 run to start the period.

West Branch shot 63 percent from the field in the opening half and led 37-20 at halftime.

“When you shoot a good percentage that means you are shooting high-percentage shots,” Tylee said. “Our kids did a good job of being patient and taking good shots.”

West Branch shot a red-hot 70 percent in the final two quarters, led by Poula, who had 18 points in the second half on 8-of-8 shooting.

The junior finished 11-of-11 from the field on her way to a game-high 24 points.

“That is a credit to our kids being patient,” Tylee said. “I didn’t think we were real patient in the first half and in the second half it was obvious with how many two-footers Haley Poula had.”

No one stepped up bigger than Miller, who came into the game averaging 4.4 points per game.

The sophomore hit her first six shots and finished 9-of-10 from the floor on her way to a career-high 20 points.

“She has it in her,” Tylee said. “As the season has gone on she has started to outnumber her bad things big time with her good things and that has been the biggest thing for Paige and it’s nice to see.”

Simpson added 18 points for West Branch. The Bears scored at least 18 points in every quarter.

West Branch now turns its attention to Durant, a team that accounted for two of the Bears’ five regular-season losses.

“I really don’t want to give them another chance to beat us again, especially in the postseason,” Miller said. “We are going to come out and work hard.”

Durant won the first meeting between the two teams 43-42 in Durant and earned a 45-31 win in West Branch.

Tylee wasn’t sure of Russell’s availability for Friday’s 7 p.m. semifinal.

With or without Russell the West Branch coach expects his team to be ready.

“I feel good about how we are playing and I feel good about whatever kids I put on the floor,” Tylee said. “I’m ready for it and I know our girls will be.”

Reach Ryan Murken at 319-339-7369 or and follow him on Twitter at @rmmurken.

West Branch (77) – Allyson Simpson 6-9 4-5 18, Megan Stoolman 0-1 0-0 0, Kara Fountain 1-1 0-1 3, Trystin Luneckas 0-3 1-4 1, Haley Mullinnix 2-10 1-2 6, Haley Poula 11-11 2-2 24, Jenae Murry 1-1 0-0 2, Paige Miller 9-10 1-1 20, Taylor Milder 1-1 1-2 3, Team 31-47 10-17 77.

Columbus (51) – Laura Mincks 3-5 5-6 10, Bailey Stroud 2-5 8-10 12, Claire Hamilton 1-3 0-2 3, Shania Boyd 2-7 0-0 4, Kelsey Pretz 8-14 4-5 20, Kortney Orr 1-6 0-0 2, Team 17-40 16-23 51.







West Branch






3-point field goals – West Branch 5-14 (Simpson 2-4, Fountain 1-1, Luneckas 0-2, Mullinnix 1-5, Miller 1-2), Columbus 1-8 (Stroud 0-1, Hamilton 1-3, Boyd 0-1, Orr 0-3). Rebounds – West Branch 21 (Luneckas 5), Columbus 22 (Pretz 9). Turnovers – West Branch 19, Columbus 22. Total fouls – West Branch 18, Columbus 17. Fouled out – Stroud (COL). Technical fouls – Columbus Bench.


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