Warriors one victory from first state berth since 2004
By Tom Williams
After the West Branch High School girls basketball team’s first regional victory in 10 years, head coach Walt DeShields said the Warriors shouldn’t be ignored by any future opponents.
“We’re on the radar now,” said DeShields after the Warriors (23-4) defeated Parma Heights Holy Name, 61-49, in a Division II regional semifinal Tuesday night at Barberton High School. “Everybody has to notice that we’re in the Elite Eight and that’s a great accomplishment.
“It’s a great feeling.”
The Warriors will play Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary (23-3) at 2 p.m. on Saturday for a trip to state. In 2004, West Branch won the Ontario regional then went on to win the state title with two wins in Columbus.
Holy Name (22-4) jumped out to a 5-0 lead. Melinda Trimmer, the Warriors’ junior guard, said that served as a wake-up call.
“The first quarter, we were excited, getting used to the court,” said Trimmer whose game-high 24 points included 12 free throws. “In the second quarter, we just woke up.
“We realized they could knock down shots and we had to step it up,” said Trimmer, a Youngstown State University recruit.
Senior forward Erica Johnson said the Warriors didn’t panic at the early deficit.
“We weren’t really nervous because we knew that we could come back,” said Johnson who finished with six points and six rebounds. “It’s happened before — we just had to settle down.”
With the game tied at 13 early in the second quarter, the Warriors surged, outscoring the Green Wave 14-4 for a double-digit halftime lead.
West Branch received strong support from bench players Kaylee Manning, Lea Bock and Emily Menegay, especially after forward Pavin Heath took two early fouls. Manning made three baskets in the second-quarter run.
“I can’t say enough about our bench,” DeShields said, “You need that at this time of year. Pavin got in foul trouble and didn’t play in the second quarter.”
The Warriors’ speed was the difference in the second quarter.
“Our [fast]breaks really hurt them and when we pushed that lead out to 10 and 12, they started getting tired,” DeShields said. “Our team can run with the best of them when they want to.”
The Warriors outrebounded the Green Wave, 37-26. DeShields was pleased with how Taryn Hahn, Erica Johnson and Bock controlled Holy Name’s tallest threats, Kim Cook and Erica Davis.
“They are solid players inside,” DeShields said. “They scored some points, but for Taryn and Erica and Lea to guard them the way they did [was huge].”
Cook scored 16 points and made 10 rebounds while Davis scored 13.
In the third quarter, Cook’s inspired play helped the Green Wave slice the Warriors’ lead to five.
But Holy Name couldn’t get closer. Then two 3-pointers by Heath to close the third quarter delivered a knockout punch.
“Definitely a game-changer there,” Trimmer said of Heath’s long-range baskets. “She got the crowd into it, she was knocking down shots. That was huge.”
Trimmer made eight of nine free-throw attempts in the fourth quarter to help seal the win.
Heath finished with 11 points. Bock and Manning also scored six.
“We had a lot of girls score tonight and contribute,” DeShields said. “When we get that, we’re pretty balanced. That’s why we reached  tonight.”