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Hubbard eliminated by West Branch

BELOIT — A young Hubbard boys basketball team was caught between a rock and a hard place Tuesday night in its Division II sectional first-round game at sixth-seeded West Branch.

The Warriors had things going inside and outside and the 20th-seeded Eagles struggled to contain that combination in a 71-36 loss.

“We played a good game tonight, and we knew coming in that we just had to play our game because this is the first playoff win in five years for us,” West Branch senior center Josh Gregory said. “So it is a pretty big deal for us. Also, we are playing for two guys at home that are in quarantine since last week. So this meant a lot to both us and them. We came and played for them.”

The players in quarantine are senior center Brock Smith and his brother, junior point-guard Jed Smith. Their loss shortened the Warriors’ bench but also helped spark a next-man-up mentality.

“We’re playing for them right now,” said Warriors coach Michael Brown, whose team is 17-6 and will entertain 15th-seeded Marlington in a sectional bracket final on Friday. “It brought us together I thought. It just shows how much they care about each other.”

The Warriors utilized a deadly combination of strong guard play and post play. They controlled the boards and overwhelmed the Eagles on the inside. West Branch also connected on six 3-pointers. Many of the 24 total field goals were scored in the paint.

“Their guards are very physical,” said Hubbard coach Joe Bornemiss, whose team dropped to 5-14. “That is a good, aggressive-playing team that knows where each and everyone is on the floor. We knew that going in. We knew they have a big kid (Gregory), but we wanted to try to guard the perimeter as best we could. And when you don’t match up with strength on the perimeter, it sometimes creates a problem. As the game goes on, it starts to wear on you.”

The Warriors, who never trailed, raced to an 18-7 lead at the end of the first quarter and extended their advantage to 17 points (32-15) by intermission.

The Eagles came out strong to begin the second half, using a quick 6-0 run. But the Warriors rustled the momentum back and pushed their lead to 46-25 at the end of the third period.

Still, Bornemiss was pleased with his group’s effort all season.

“I love these kids,” he said. “I wouldn’t want any other group but these seniors. They never quit. They work their tails off and play as hard as they can. It was hard to get in a rhythm. It was rough season.

“But it was a year where I thought our young kids got a good look at a Division II varsity program. We have some good, young kids coming through that got to see what it looks like physically. That’s where we need to get to.”

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