District champs: After four-year drought, Bears take title again
by Norv and Mary Coblentz · Sports · March 02, 2017

A 69-56 Feb. 21 District Final win over the Tipton Tigers propelled the West Branch boys’ basketball team to the substate game.

It was the third time this season the Bears beat the Tigers. The Tipton game was held at West Branch on Feb. 21. Substate was Feb. 25 against Camanche.

It was the Bears first district championship win since 2013, and second since 1992.

“I thought we hit some big shots at big times and had some kids step up that maybe don’t shoot the ball maybe as well and made some shots,” West Branch Head Coach Tom Burger said. “You do that, it changes Tipton’s game plan a little bit. Then you get Kabela a little bit of relief on the inside.

“When you don’t make shots, that changes our game plan. Give these kids credit. We haven’t been shooting the ball well in practice.

“We had a couple of things we wanted to do against (Tipton standout junior Logan Hoffman). He’s going to get his points. The bottom line is you’ve got to frustrate people.”

The Bears did frustrate the Tigers, and likely disturbed their game plan.

“You’ve got to tip your hat to West Branch” Tipton Head Coach Matt Fouch said. “They were firing on all cylinders after that first half. We started out in man-to-man trying to take away their two studs - Beau (Cornwell) and Cooper (Kabela). Then all of a sudden they have other guys attacking the basket and getting layups on us, knocking down threes. We go to guard them, then Beau goes off on us.

“In the second half (Kabela) was their go-to guy. They just beat us. They played better than us.”

The Bears had three players in double figures including Cornwell (with 18 points) and Kabela (with 15 points). The dark horse in the game was Ben Thompson who scored 20 points in the winning effort.

The Tigers won the opening tip and drew first blood with a three-point basket at the 7:16 mark. Thompson drove to the basket and scored for a 3-2 score at the 7:02 mark. Each team turned the ball over, then Ted Bridges made a jumper for the Bears’ first lead at 4-3. A Tipton basket in the paint gave the Tigers a 5-4 edge. Thompson muscled in and scored in the paint for a 6-5 West Branch lead. Tipton got an offensive rebound and three-point basket for an 8-6 Tigers lead. Thompson was fouled on a shot and made the first of two free throws. Tipton got the rebound.

Bridges got a defensive board, and Thompson scored and drew a foul. He completed the three-point play. With 3:58 to go in the first quarter, the Bears had a 10-8 lead. Cornwell grabbed a defensive rebound, and Thompson dished to Tanner Lukavsky who scored for a 12-8 score. Tipton made another three-point basket, got a defensive rebound, and got fouled on a shot. They made both free throws to take a 13-12 lead. Kabela scored inside, assist Thompson. Kabela was fouled, and he completed the three-point play for a 14-13 West Branch lead. Tipton got a putback basket to tie the score at 15-15. T. Lukavsky drove to the basket to give West Branch a two-point edge with a minute to go. Tipton traveled. T. Lukavsky passed the ball inside to Kabela who was fouled. He made both free throws for a 19-15 West Branch lead going into the second quarter.

The second quarter was crushing for the Tigers with the Bears outscoring the Tigers 24-12. The Bears had possession to start the quarter, and Cornwell made a jump shot for a 21-15 West Branch lead. Tipton scored in the paint. Cornwell made a three-point shot at the 6:40 mark for a 24-17 Bears’ lead. Kabela got a block, but the Tigers kept the ball. Thompson got a defensive rebound, and Cornwell made another trey for a 27-17 score. The Tigers took a time out. After a Tipton turnover, Thompson was fouled on a shot. He made both free throws. Tipton got a putback basket, Cornwell made a jump shot, and Tipton made a basket for a 31-21 score. Cornwell passed the ball to Kabela, who made a three-point basket. Each team got a defensive rebound without scoring. Kabela got a defensive rebound, and Thompson scored, assist Cornwell, with a three-pointer for a 37-21 score.

Tipton took another time out. Tipton drove to the basket and scored for a 27-23 score with 1:22 left in the first half. Tipton was fouled on a shot and made the first of two free throws. T. Lukavsky got the rebound. Brett Schiele made a three-pointer for the Bears with 29 seconds on the clock. Tipton answered with a trey. A near-half court shot by Beau Cornwell at the buzzer put the Bears up 43-27 at halftime.

Each team scored in single digits in the third quarter. Tipton scored first, Cornwell scored, then Kabela drove to the basket and scored. Each team had a turnover, then Cornwell scored with a jumper. for a 49-29 Bears’ lead. Thompson got a steal and a basket, and Tipton took another time out with 3:20 left in the quarter. Tipton scored for a 51-31 score. Kabela was fouled on a drive and made the first of two free throws. Tipton got the rebound. With 26.6 seconds left in the quarter, Tipton missed two free throws. The rebound went off the Bears, and Tipton made a three-point shot. The score going into the last quarter was West Branch 52, Tipton 34.

The Bears had the ball to start the fourth quarter. Thompson scored, assist Schiele. Thompson got a defensive rebound. After a steal, the Tigers scored. Thompson was fouled on a shot. He made the second of two free throws. Tipton scored for a 55-38 tally with 6:08 left in the game. Kabela got a putback basket, then Tipton scored for a 57-40 score. The Bears traveled, then Tipton was fouled and made both free throws. T. Lukavsky scored, assist Cornwell. He was fouled on the shot and made the free throw for a 60-42 score with 4:10 on the clock. Tipton made a basket at the 3:30 mark. Kabela scored, assist Bridges, and the score was 62-44. West Branch missed one free throw, and the Tigers missed two free throws. With 2:33 to go, Cornwell was fouled and made both free throws for a 64-44 score. The Tigers made a three-point basket.

In the next minute and a half, the Bears missed three free throws, and the Tigers missed one. Tipton drove to the basket and scored with 1:25 on the clock. Thompson was fouled and made both free throws for a 66-49 score with 1:14 to go. Tipton scored, got a steal, and scored again. With 47 seconds on the clock, the score was 66-53. Bridges scored, assist Kabela. The Tigers made a three-point basket with 25 seconds remaining. Cornwell was fouled and made the second of two free throws for a 69-56 score. Tipton got an offensive rebound, then Brady Lukavsky got a steal. The Tigers’ shot at the buzzer missed.

The last time the Bears went to substate was in the 2012-13 season when the Bears were in the Cedar Valley Conference. A talented senior class that season included Rylan Murry, Cole Cook, and Cody Brandt.

1 2 3 4 T

WB 19 24 8 17 69

Tip. 15 12 7 22 56

West Branch stats: Beau Cornwell 6 3-6 18, 3 3-pointers, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal; Brady Lukavsky 1 rebound; Tanner Lukavsky 4 1-1 9, 6 rebounds; Brett Schiele 1 0-0 3, 1 3-pointer, 1 steal; Cooper Kabela 5 4-7 15, 1 3-pointer, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks; Ben Thompson 6 7-9 20, 1 3-pointer, 3 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals; Ted Bridges 2 0-0 4, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 1 steal

Tipton stats: Zach Ford 1 0-0 2, 2 assists; Daulton Mente 3 0-3 8, 2 3-pointers, 6 rebounds; Andrew Stewart 2 0-1 5, 1 3-pointer, 1 steal; Luke Becker 2 0-0 5, 1 3-pointer, 1 rebound, 1 steal; Brendon Claussen 2 1-3 6, 1 3-pointer, 1 rebound; Jacob Tschuk 1 0-0 2, 1 rebound, 1 steal; Frank Bierman 1 0-0 2, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal; Logan Hoffman 10 4-4 26, 2 3-pointers, 7 rebounds

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