BOARDMAN - The West Branch Warriors had a tough time shooting the ball early in Friday night's Division II tournament contest against Southeast. By the time the shots did start falling for the Warriors, the Pirates had built a 19-point lead. While West Branch battled back with a ferocious fourth-quarter rally, they fell just short 56-53 and their 2011-12 campaign came to a close.
Southeast played an up-tempo physical game that got the Warriors out of their comfort zone and helped them avenge an earlier season loss in Beloit.
"We got behind early, and it's not a good situation for us with our style of play," head coach John Hancock said.
"They played us very physical, too, and early on we missed a lot of shots due to their physicality."
Southeast built a 13-6 lead after one quarter and had a 24-16 advantage at the half. By the time the fourth quarter was under way, the Pirates were up by 19 and it looked all but over.
But the Warriors have been a scrappy bunch all season long and Friday was no different. Spreading the wealth, seven different Warriors tallied fourth-quarter points and West Branch nearly totaled its output for the first three quarters in the final eight minutes scoring 25 points.
"Credit to our kids, we had to play fast which is something we don't do a lot of," Hancock said. "But we battled the second half to put ourselves in a position to have a chance to win at the end."
Leading the Warriors was senior Matt Latham with a team-high 13 points. Fellow senior Austen Rekolt added 11, Scott Muckleroy added six and Jalen Shelton hit a bucket during the rally as well in their final appearance in Warriors uniforms.
Southeast was led by Nathan Simyak with a game-high 15 points. Noah Kainraid added 13.
"I'm extremely proud of our guys," Hancock said. "We don't have a single player averaging in double figures, and the kids bought into our approach and were willing to sacrifice numbers to have success. I told them the biggest disappointment is we don't get to come back to practice tomorrow."
West Branch finishes the season at 10-11, but look towards a promising future. Junior Jacob Griffith tallied nine points Friday. Junior point guard Drake Lohnes added six points, while freshman Kip DeShields added four. Junior Beau Taylor, who missed a lengthy stretch of the season due to injury, also added a bucket for the Warriors.
"They handled themselves with class," Hancock said of his squad.
"It's just disappointing we didn't end the season a little better and make the run in the tournament we had hoped for. It just didn't go our way tonight."
The Pirates advance to play Poland at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
SOUTHEAST: 13 11 14 18 - 56
WEST BRANCH: 6 10 10 25 - 53
SOUTHEAST SCORING: Nathan Simyak 6-0-15, Noah Kainraid 3-7-13, Jordan Krych 3-3-9, Joe Kinker 2-0-5, Trevor Norquest 3-1-8, Lucas Bloom 1-0-2, Chris Kinker 1-2-4. TEAM TOTALS: 19, 13-17, 56.
WEST BRANCH SCORING: Beau Taylor 1-0-2, Kip DeShields 2-0-4, Scott Muckleroy 2-2-6, Austen Rekolt 4-1-11, Drake Lohnes 2-2-6, Jalen Shelton 1-0-2, Jacob Griffith 4-1-9, Matt Latham 5-3-13. TEAM TOTALS: 21, 9-12, 53.
THREE POINTER: Southeast 5 (Simyak 3, Kinker, Norquest), West Branch 2 (Rekolt 2).