West Branch ran its winning steak to five games by defeating Salem.
By GARY HOUSTEAU
BELOIT -- When Salem's Alyson Cotter connected on a 3-point basket with five seconds remaining in the first quarter for a 16-14 lead against West Branch, the game had all the makings of a mid-season contest between two back-yard rivals.
But the Warrior defense was able to stymie the Quaker offense from that point, forcing turnovers and simply denying Salem shots at the basket in a 44-30 win Wednesday at West Branch High.
West Branch (7-3), which won its fifth straight game, held the Quakers to just two field goal attempts and one lone basket in the second quarter, and the Warriors were never really challenged in the second half.
Cotter's basket with 5:17 remaining in the second quarter gave the Quakers their final lead of the game at 18-16, and provided Salem (7-5) with its only points of the period as West Branch took a 20-18 lead into halftime.
Cotter scored 10 of Salem's 18 points at the intermission. Sge finished with 18 points, including three of four in 3-pointers, to lead everyone in scoring, and grabbed seven caroms.
Momentum gone: "We lost our momentum when we quit running our offense and we got out of sync," said Salem coach Steve Stewart. "I give West Branch credit, they picked up a little bit on defense on us, but at the same time we didn't adjust to it and we just didn't execute our offense."
The game plan for the Warriors going into the contest was to put pressure on Salem and tire it out.
"Obviously they don't sub as much as we do so we thought a key would be to put pressure on them as much as we could in the first half," said West Branch coach Chuck Campbell. "We knew coming in that we were going to press, we knew we were going to mix our defenses up a little bit and we thought that was the difference."
Turnovers: The Quakers added to the West Branch cause by turning the basketball over nine times in the second period, 16 in the first half. For the game, Salem turned the ball over 26 times, while West Branch suffered 11.
"Too many turnovers," Stewart said. "It's about patience and we need to relax a little bit in these type of games. If it's early in the year, you could understand that a little bit, but this is better than half way through the season and it's time to have a little more composure."
West Branch outscored Salem 14-8 in the third period and 10-4 in the final frame. The Warriors also out-rebounded Salem in the second half 11-8. The Quakers had a 16-12 advantage on the glass in the first half.
With the Warriors struggling from the perimeter, West Branch had Tori Arndt and Carissa Wayland doing most of the damage in the game on the inside.
Arndt stars: Arndt, just a freshman, scored 14 points and grabbed seven rebounds, five coming after halftime, to pace her team in both categories. Wayland scored 11 points in the game and grabbed three boards.
"This was a game that we felt that we had to take it to them inside," Campbell said.
"The girls did just a super job of finding the girls when they were open inside, and the girls took advantage of that and took the ball strong to the hole."
As one of the few senior players in the game, Wayland helped to keep the Warriors in the game early, scoring her team's first six points.
"We thought she just played a super game," Campbell said.
"She's one of our players that started most of the games last year and in big games like this you expect your seniors and your leaders to step up and she did."
Lauren Teal had eight points and six rebounds for the Quakers.