Hathaway Brown ends West Branch’s season
By Tom Williams
Defensively, the West Branch High School girls basketball team stood tall against a program that has been ending most of its recent seasons in Columbus.
Offensively, the Warriors couldn’t get untracked, falling 34-25 to Hathaway Brown in a Division II regional final Saturday night at Barberton High School.
“End of the season, it’s never easy,” said West Branch coach Walt DeShields after the Warriors’ 23-game winning streak was snapped. “It’s tough, it will take them a few days [to move on].
“It hurts,” said DeShields, whose team was trying for its second trip to Columbus in three seasons. “I’m very proud of these girls. What a ride, it’s been a lot of fun.”
Hathaway Brown (17-10) won its ninth regional title since 2006. (Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary won the 2014 regional.)
Hanna Harlor scored nine points for the Blazers in the first quarter and finished with 11. Six-foot-2 Dani Lawson, who will play for Purdue next fall, scored eight and had 11 rebounds while freshman Kaydan Lawson scored seven.
“I don’t think we were really intimidated,” Warriors senior point guard Brenna Rito said of the Lawsons. “It was a great season. We’re a sisterhood. Our chemistry was great.
“We’re going to cherish these memories.”
Emma Rankin, the Warriors’ other senior, made two 3-pointers and finished with eight points.
“[Playing] someone who’s a Purdue commit is always going to be a problem,” Rankin said, “We tried to double-down on [Dani Lawson] and get her less touches.”
The Warriors, champions of the Northeastern Buckeye Conference, trailed 9-6 after the first quarter.
“We thought if we could keep it close in the first half, we could wear them down,” Rankin said. “So to keep it close in the beginning was a real big confidence boost.”
A Sarrah Tennefoss basket and Hannah Ridgway free throw sliced the Blazers’ lead to 13-11 in the second quarter.
But the Blazers closed the first half with four more free throws.
Then Hathaway Brown opened the second half with a 7-0 run that had the Warriors down, 24-11.
“We just went on a drought offensively and that really hurt us,” DeShields said. “We didn’t quit, we came back and started making some shots, but we needed to make them early and often.”
Ahead 27-14 entering the final quarter, the Blazers missed two shots in the first minute and then didn’t try another. Their final seven points came at the free throw line as they played keepaway.
The Warriors produced four steals and went on a 7-0 run. Kayla Hovorka’s 3-pointer with 1:45 remaining capped the run and reduced the Blazers’ lead to 30-23.
But the Warriors could only produce one more basket.
Hathaway Brown coach Mike Coreno said the Blazers have been allowing just 26 points on defense, so the low-scoring game wasn’t a surprise.
Hovorka led the Warriors with 11 points, four rebounds and three assists.
“We’ve got a lot of girls coming back next year ... so we hope to be back here again for another shot, another opportunity,” DeShields said. “Your dream is Columbus and a lot of them wanted that nice ride down there.”