Liberty falls to deep West Branch team

AUSTINTOWN – It was the depth of the West Branch Raiders that proved to be too much for the Liberty Leopards to handle on Wednesday night.

The Warriors had 10 different players score as they went on to defeat Liberty, 76-29, in the Division II sectional semifinal at Austintwon Fitch High School.

West Branch forced five turnovers in the first 4 minutes to take an 11-3 lead over the Leopards. West Branch’s Melinda Trimmer got the Warriors started on the offensive end with six quick points. She finished with a game-high 19.

Liberty’s Rachel Crum hit two free throws to cut the lead to 11-7 late in the first quarter. Crum finished the first half with eight of Liberty’s 12 points and went 4 of 4 from the free-throw line. She ended up 15 to lead Liberty.

The Warriors took a 17-7 lead after one and outscored the Leopards 21-5 in the second quarter. West Branch led 38-12 at halftime as Trimmer poured in 15 of her 19 in the first half.

While the West Branch offense was up to speed, it was its stifiling defense throughout that set the tone.

“Our press caused a lot of problems tonight and we forced some turnovers early in the game,” West Branch coach Walt DeShields said. “We also stopped their penetration and forced them to be a jump-shooting team.”

Leah Leshnack for Liberty connected on two floaters in the lane to open the third quarter. She finished with six points in the game.

However, Pavin Heath scored seven points in the third quarter to help the Warriors extend their lead. Heath ended the night with 12 points. West Branch took a 60-23 lead into the fourth.

“They ran a little box-and-one defense on us,” DeShields said. “We expected that, with the scoring of our two sophomores (Melinda Trimmer and Pavin Heath).

“Melinda and Pavin were real patient. They ended up still being our two leading scorers.”

Along with Trimmer and Heath, Amanda Linhart added 11 points for West Branch.

West Branch moves to 21-2 overall this season and advances to take on Streetsboro in the sectional final Saturday afternoon. Liberty finishes the year 5-17 overall.

“The one thing about this group is they play hard,” Liberty coach Ron Dejulio said. “We’re relatively young with only two seniors and a core of our girls are coming back next year.”