Warriors will meet
SVSM on Saturday
By Tom Williams
Big crowds don’t intimidate the West Branch High girls basketball team. In fact, the Warriors relish the concept of “the more the merrier.”
During Tuesday’s 61-49 victory over Parma Heights Holy Name in the Division II regional tournament at Barberton High School, the Warriors (23-4) were surrounded by fans in green. Their student section was extremely vocal, from the national anthem to the “I believe” chant in the final moments.
“The crowd is everything right now,” junior guard Melinda Trimmer said after scoring 24 points to lead the Warriors. “Our support is tremendous. “When we get the crowd into it, the momentum swing is just huge,” the Youngstown State University recruit said. “If we can keep that going when we get a big lead, we just feed off of that, try to make big shots and keep the crowd going.”
It worked against the parochial Green Wave, whose supporters also were clad in green but were greatly outnumbered by fans from Beloit.
Crowd support could come in handy at 2 p.m. on Saturday when the Warriors take on state-ranked Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary (24-2) for a trip to state. The Irish also had hundreds of supporters cheering during their 45-33 semifinal win over Geneva, but not as many as West Branch.
“They feed off of that,” West Branch head coach Walt DeShields said of huge turnouts. “The more people that come, the more they are going to feed.
“That makes them less nervous to see [hundreds] of West Branch people dressed in green.” DeShields said. “We all talked about that before the [district final] Struthers game [in Austintown] — we’d rather have a big, huge crowd making noise than just a few people out there where you could hear a pin drop.
“That makes you more nervous.”
DeShields was impressed that the community chipped in to sponsor four spirit buses to take fans to Tuesday’s game.
“I hope there are six on Saturday,” said DeShields, adding that his players “are feeding off that energy from the crowd.
“They are playing harder and moving around the court much better,” DeShields said. “It’s easier when people are screaming and hollering for you.”
The Warriors and Irish aren’t strangers — DeShields arranged a preaseason scrimmage with SVSM and Richfield Revere at the new SVSM gymnasium that was boosted by a contribution from LeBron James.
“We actually had a little fun trip up there to LeBron James’ gym,” DeShields said. “The girls were excited to go up there and see it.
“We took pictures on the floor, it was almost like a vacation.”
DeShields said both teams played well in the scrimmage and is aware his team is the underdog.
“A lot of people [made them] preseason favorites to go to Columbus,” DeShields said of the Irish. “They’ve got a great team and Coach [Joe] Jakubick does a great job coaching them year in and year out.
“We’ve known each other for a while now, clear back when we were going to Massillon for the regional tournament.”
The Warriors pulled away from the Green Wave thanks to a 37-26 edge in rebounds against taller opponents.
“In tournaments, you’ve got to rebound,” DeShields said. “We were concerned about their two post players — [Kim] Cook and [Erica] Davis.
“They scored some points on us, but we outrebounded them.”
It’s been an exciting week for the Warriors who were stopped in the past three seasons with losses in the district final.
“We’re not getting much sleep right now, but it’s fun, staying up and watching films and preparing,” DeShields said. “We’re trying to keep them from getting too high, just try to keep an even keel.”