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Warriors rally again to get by Canfield

BELOIT — It’s probably not a habit Michael Brown welcomes, although the West Branch Warriors basketball coach can’t complain about the results.

Brown watched the Warriors exhibit a come-from-behind ability in charging to a 5-0 record. They rallied recently from a 15-point deficit to defeat Austintown Fitch, and Friday they never wavered despite trailing most of the first half to the Canfield Cardinals.

Senior guard Reese Leone led the charge with a game-high 28 points as the Warriors held on for a 53-50 win. Leone took control in the third quarter, scoring 10 points as West Branch turned a 24-23 halftime deficit into a 40-37 lead.

“Our senior class has been together since the third grade,” Leone said. “We know our strengths and weaknesses. When you put that together with young guys, they fit right in. Down the stretch not one person in the whole organization thought we were going to lose.”

It appeared the Warriors might pull away after increasing their lead to 48-41 in the fourth quarter, but the Cardinals (3-2) also showed a resilient streak. Three-point shots by Joe Bruno and Chase Lowry helped turn a six-point deficit into a 50-50 tie with 45 seconds to play.

Freshman guard Dru DeShields broke the tie with a pair of free throws for the Warriors. Brayden Beck of Canfield was then called for a charge, but West Branch lost possession on an inbounds violation. Brent Herrmann, who led Canfield in scoring with 19 points, was then called for charging.

DeShields made one of two free throws to make it a three-point differential. Bruno got a good look at a 3-pointer but missed the mark. The Cardinals maintained possession. Bruno missed another 3-pointer, and Nick Everett grabbed the rebound for the Warriors as time expired.

“It all starts with the coaches and the scouting report and buying into what they have to say,” said Warriors senior Nick Pidgeon, who drew the charge after the inbounds violation. “If we keep buying in the way we are, those things keep happening.”

It was the Herrmann show in the first quarter as the senior forward connected on three 3-pointers in scoring 11 points to spark the Cardinals to a 15-11 lead. Herrmann made another 3-pointer early in the second period, but the Warriors limited him to eight points in the final three periods.

“We made an adjustment,” Warriors coach Michael Brown said. “We started switching guys on and off him to kind of tire him down. I thought we had too much of a cushion in the first half on him. We talked at halftime of making it tougher and making him put it on the floor and going with his weak hand.”

The loss gives the Cardinals something to build off going forward.

“Closing games is something we have to learn how to do better,” Cardinals coach Todd Muckleroy said. “I thought we had the momentum the last minute and a half. Our guys executed great, but we couldn’t make the shots to finish it off.”

Bruno had 13 points. Lowry finished with 10.

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