By CHRIS RAMBO
GREENFORD-The South Range Raiders have had their way with much of the Inter-Tri County League upper tier this season, but faced an entirely different kind of test on Monday against West Branch.
Led by 26 points, six assists and five steals from Youngstown State recruit Melinda Trimmer, the Warriors pulled away in the third quarter and handled the Raiders 61-38 at South Range High School.
"That's probably the best team we've gone against," South Range coach Tony Matisi said. "They are very good and bigger and stronger than us. They aren't going to beat themselves and they just wore us down in the second half."
West Branch improves to 18-4 overall while South Range drops to 16-3. With the tournament approaching, both teams were eager to gauge themselves. It became clear that the Warriors-who played a rugged schedule in Division II-were too much on this night. West Branch opened up the third quarter on a 12-2 run in which its defensive and scoring ability were on full display. The lead expanded from 20-17 to 32-19 and would not be below double digits the rest of the night.
"The whole team stepped up on defense in the second half," Trimmer said. "We started forcing more turnovers and it opened up a lot more offensive opportunities."
Taryn Hahn had 10 points and six rebounds, Pavin Heath had 11 points and Erica Johnson had seven rebounds as the Warriors gradually wore down the Raiders.
"South Range played us tough in the first half and our girls took that challenge and wanted to play tougher," West Branch coach Walt DeShields said. "We took a lot of pride in our man-to-man defense. We are going to need that toughness going forward."
"Everything West Branch did was physical," Matisi said. "They were just better across the board. I actually thought their offense wore us down more than the defense, We couldn't catch our breath."
Starla Sharp and Sierra Petrella led the Raiders with 11 points each, while Sara Durr had 10 points off the bench. Early on, it was South Range playing its kind of game defensively, as the smaller Raider guards spent the first half buzzing around the Warriors and forcing turnovers. However, the Raiders left a frustrating number of points on the floor due to close range misses.
"Early in the game was everything we could have hoped for defensively," Matisi said. "Missed layups have killed us all year. For us to compete we had to cash in on those chances.
"South Range is one of the quicker teams we have played this year," DeShields said. "They got their hands on the ball and played the passing lanes very well."
South Range is at Poland on Wednesday, while the Warriors have a whole week off before they host Niles in sectional tournament play next Monday.
"We are going to go hard at each other in practice," DeShields said. "We need to work on playing consistently for four quarters and we are going to need to be a better rebounding team for the tournament."
West Branch won the jayvee game 39-31. Catie Hahn had 16 points for the Warriors. Lynnie Ritter had 11 point for the Raiders.
W. BRANCH: 9-11-21-20-61
S. RANGE: 8- 9-11-10-38
WEST BRANCH SCORING: Melinda Trimmer 10-4-26, Pavin Heath 2-7-12, Amanda Linhart 2-0-5, Erica Johnson 0-1-1, Lea Bock 1-0-2, Taryn Hahn 4-2-10, Emily Menegay 1-0-2, Kaylee Manning 1-2-4, Catie Hahn 0-0-0, Lauren Martig 0-0-0, Allie Garrett 0-0-0, Paige Walsh 0-0-0, Mariah Herbert 0-0-0. TEAM TOTALS: 21, 16-18: 61.
SOUTH RANGE SCORING: Starla Sharp 3-4-11, Ashley Sharp 0-0-0, Sierra Petrella 4-3-11, Jordan Youngs 0-0-0, Morgan Czopur 1-1-3, Kendall Syms 0-0-0, Sara Durr 5-0-10, Marketta Gabriel 1-0-3, Lynnie Ritter 0-0-0, Taylor Naples 0-0-0, Kate Yeagley 0-0-0. TEAM TOTALS: 14, 8-13: 38.
Three-point goals: West Branch 3 (Trimmer 2, Linhart), South Range 2 (Starla Sharp, Gabriel).