The Warriors need one win for their fourth straight Northeastern Buckeye Conference championship.
By TODD BELL
BELOIT -- West Branch has won three straight Northeastern Buckeye Conference girls basketball championships and is just one win from clinching a tie for its fourth.
And for those who think the Warriors are stopping there, better think again. On Wednesday, West Branch was led by a freshman, Tori Arndt, and a sophomore, Ashley Armstrong, as it defeated visiting Canton South 54-40.
The Warriors (13-3, 11-0 NBC) can clinch the conference title next Wednesday at Minerva, which would be their seventh in 12 years.
West Branch took control of Wednesday's game in the first quarter, jumping out to a quick 7-0 start that grew to a lead of 12 after one period.
By halftime, the lead was 14 points, with the Arndt and Armstrong combining for 19 of the team's 26 first-half points.
Followed plan: "The first half we stayed within our game plan and did the things we needed to do," West Branch coach Chuck Campbell said.
West Branch was facing a 1-3-1 zone in the first half, but the sharp-shooting Armstrong, who finished with 15 points, wasn't affected, connecting on two early 3-pointers.
"She's starting to look for it," Campbell said of Armstrong's outside shot. "Before she was looking to disperse the ball to different players. Now all the sudden she's starting to take that shot when it's there."
With the outside game going, it opened the inside up for the 6-foot Arndt. Leading West Branch with 20 points and eight boards, she dominated play in the key.
"Coming in we had high expectations for Tori, but right now she's playing above the expectations we had for her," Campbell said.
Canton South (5-11, 5-6) did make a run in the second half, partly due to the play of senior Shawnteva Patterson, who scored 12 of her team-high 14 points over the final two frames. With just over two minutes remaining to play, the Wildcats cut the lead to seven points when Amy Stano hit a 3-pointer.
Strong at the line: But down the stretch West Branch hit 6-of-8 free throws to ice the game.
"I have to give Canton South a lot of credit; the Patterson girl had an outstanding second half," Campbell said. "Also, Canton South is one of those teams that plays helter-skelter at times and they tend to be a team that sometimes makes you play ugly."
West Branch has won 11 consecutive games. It's last loss came against Canfield in early December. Right now, Campbell feels there is a target on his team.
"Looking at Canton South, the one thing that could save their season over-all would be to beat us, and that's what we're up against every game now," he said.