Feb. 23—WEST BRANCH — We are still a few days from March but Pella Christian almost brought some March Madness to February as they fell just short of a massive upset in Friday night's 41-37 loss to No. 3 West Branch.
This one was played in the mud, where the Eagles needed it to be. West Branch got out to the quick start with defensive pressure forcing turnovers and getting them out in front 5-0 a minute in.
The Eagles responded with Allison Van Gorp getting deep post position and scoring seven first quarter points to tie it up at 12 heading to the second.
The Pella Christian defense continued to be active in the second quarter as they were all night forcing 17 Bear turnovers. The Eagles continued to play a strong quarter with threes from Karlie Anderson and Avery Baugh as they held a 22-21 lead at the half.
West Branch went through a long scoring drought in the third quarter before Bradley University commit Sasha Koenig said enough and knocked in a long three to tie the game at 30 late in the third before Anna Bonnett's layup gave the Eagles a 32-30 lead with upset-minded Pella Christian eight minutes away from the regional finals.
But the fourth quarter proved to be Koenig time as she married a couple of huge threes and scored the Bears first seven points of the quarter to give them a 37-33 advantage with 1:56 left.
Meanwhile, the Pella Christian offense had to adjust their offense. After finding Van Gorp inside on several occasions for 11 points in the first half, West Branch made the adjustment and took her away in the second half, holding her to just two points in the final 16 minutes.
The Eagles got back into the game with a pair of free throws from Joslyn Terpstra as PC would have to play the foul game. Koenig would hit one of two from the line to make it a three-point game before Van Gorp's lone second half bucket cut it to one with 13.7 seconds to go.
PC would foul West Branch's Taya Young, who would calmly knock down a pair of clutch free throws to push the Bear lead back to three with 11.7 left.
Pella Christian would call timeout and draw up a play. The Eagles come out of the timeout and down the floor, driving the lane before kicking it out to an open Emri Agre in the corner but her three would rim out with the Eagles fouling again with 0.1 on the clock as the upset bid came to an end.
Koenig finished with 22 points, five steals and three assists for West Branch on 7-of-17 shooting. Pella Christian did a great job against the other girls from West Branch as Bears not named Koenig were a combined 5-of-26 (19.2%) from the field and 0-for-11 from three.
Van Gorp would lead the Eagles with 13 points while Anderson and Terpstra both added six points.
Pella Christian finishes the season with a 9-14 record and says goodbye to seniors Anna Bonnett, Avery Baugh and Allison Van Gorp.
*Pella Christian stats were not available at time of print
Colin Peters can be reached at 641-672-2581, by email at email@example.com or on Twitter @ColinPetersOH.