BELOIT -The mark of many good point guards is the ability to influence the game even when their shot is off. West Branch junior Melinda Trimmer showcased that skill Wednesday night against Canfield.
In a matchup of perennial area powers, Trimmer had 11 points, nine assists and made the defensive play of the night as the Warriors withstood a late Cardinal rally to win 52-50.
The Warriors (2-0) have now defeated the Cardinals (1-1) three straight times in the regular season. However, the last two years the Cardinals got the last laugh in the postseason, winning back-to-back district finals over West Branch.
"It's a nice win at the start of the year," Trimmer said. "We didn't play to our full potential tonight. Canfield played hard and showed how bad they wanted it, but we'll definitely take the result."
Trimmer, the reigning Northeastern Buckeye Conference Player of the Year and a Youngstown State recruit, made just one field goal, but was pinpoint with her passes and got into the lane frequently, which resulted in 12 trips to the foul line, many of them in the second quarter as the Warriors steadily built a 12-point lead.
"My shot was not exactly falling tonight," Trimmer said. "But I still tried to play as hard as I could on defense and focused on doing whatever I could to help the team win."
"Melinda did a great job of not getting discouraged," West Branch coach Walt DeShields said. "She showed how many ways she was able to help us tonight."
The beneficiary of many of Trimmer's assists was Pavin Heath, who finished with 20 points on the strength of four three-pointers. Trimmer found Heath open beyond the line early and often.
"I knew they would be focused on Melinda, so I knew I had to step up," Heath said. "I knew early that I would get some opportunities and she did a great job of finding me."
The Warriors led most of the game, and were in front by double digits much of the second half. Canfield, which lost four starters from last season's Division II regional finalist squad, had trouble finding an early rhythm on offense. Guard Rachel Tinkey, the Cardinals lone returning starter, had 26 points and eight rebounds, but the Warriors were able to neutralize everybody else.
"We have a lot of young kids in new roles," Canfield coach Pat Pavlansky said. "Even Rachel is having to adjust to being the main option of offense. We struggled for a lot of the night, but were able to do some nice things defensively late to get back in it."
Behind Tinkey, the Cardinals clawed back from a 47-36 deficit to close the margin to 49-44 with one minute to go. After a steal, the Cardinals got the ball and guard Lynnae Whitehead headed for the basket. However, Trimmer was with her step-for-step and blocked the layup attempt. The Warriors grabbed the rebound, forcing the Cardinals to foul. Trimmer iced the game at the free throw line.
"I knew she was going to try and take it to the hole," Trimmer said. "It felt really good. I like to be in a position to help the team at the end of the game."
CANFIELD: 19- 7-10-14-50
W. BRANCH: 20-15-12- 5-52
CANFIELD SCORING: Lynnae Whitehead 2-0-5, Rachel Tinkey 8-7-26, Jamie Giambattista 0-0-0, Crissy Gelonese 0-0-0, Erin Risner 3-0-6, Emily Ellis 3-0-7, Ashley Kaleel 2-1-6, Savannah Barko 0-0-0. TOTALS 18, 8-14: 50
WEST BRANCH SCORING: Melinda Trimmer 1-9-11, Emily Menegay 0-0-0, Kaylee Manning 1-0-3, Pavin Heath 8-0-20, Amanda Linhart 2-2-7, Taryn Hahn 1-3-5, Lauren Martig 0-0-0, Lea Bock 3-0-6. TOTALS: 16, 14-22: 52
Three-pointers: Canfield (Tinkey 3, Kaleel, Ellis, Whitehead), West Branch (Heath 4, Manning, Linhart).