By Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – BJ Mayer summed up Saturday’s top-six matchup between perennial Iowa powers West High and West Des Moines Valley accurately in the moments after the game.
“That was fun,” the veteran West High coach admitted shortly after the final horn.
Mayer was right, the meeting between two of the state's best was definitely fun and highly enetertaining. It was just a little bit more fun for The Tigers.
Sixth-ranked West Des Moines Valley (15-2) escaped with a 77-71 win over No. 3 West High in a high-scoring, back-and-forth non-conference matchup of two of the top teams on their respective sides of the state at West High.
“Both of us like to play a similar style try to get up and down and it was fun,” Mayer said. “There was lots of shooting 3-pointers, lots of scoring, that’s the games that we want to be in against really good teams like they are and I think that showing what we did tonight now we can feel like we can compete with those teams.”
Valley used a 10-3 run over the final 2:48 of the third quarter to take control and converted 14-of-18 free throws in the fourth quarter to secure its eighth straight win and improve to 15-2 on the season.
West High had an eight-game winning streak snapped with its first loss since December 13 and dropped to 13-2 on the season.
“Playing really good teams you can’t have little mental lapses and that’s what we had,” Mayer said. “If we can get a little more consistent I think we have really good chances the rest of the way.”
Rachael Saunders had 21 points and Logan Cook added 16 for West High but it wasn’t enough as the Women of Troy lost their fifth straight to Valley.
That five-game stretch includes a 57-46 loss last season in Des Moines and a 57-41 loss in the 2015 state semifinals.
“We have lost every game to them since I have been here so that is kind of a gut punch,” Saunders said. “I felt like we were more prepared for them this year than any other year and we just came up short.”
After a sluggish start for both teams in a rare Saturday after contest fans were treated to an up and down contest between two of the state’s best.
Valley led 14-11 after the opening quarter and 36-33 at halftime after second quarter that featured five ties and a combined 44 points.
“They love to get up and down the court and we love to get up and down the court as well,” Saunders said. “We knew it was going to be that kind of game.”
The third quarter was more of the same as the teams took turns hitting big shots.
There were eight lead changes in the third quarter alone and no team led by more than six in the game.
West High took its final lead of the game at 49-47 on a bucket by Saunders with 3:02 left in the third quarter.
Saunders scored the final 13 points for West High in the third quarter, hitting all four of her field goal attempts including a trio of 3-pointers.
“I think our ball movement in the second half definitely helped us out,” Saunders said. “That allowed us to make more shots.”
A basket in the lane by Jackie Feldt tied the score at 49 and back-to-back baskets in the paint by Casey Carr put Valley up 53-49.
Saunders hit a 3-pointer with 45 seconds left to close the gap to one, but Valley closed the quarter with four unanswered points on a driving layup by Hannah Fuller and a short jumper by Feldt.
“We didn’t really follow through on the scouting report as well as we could have to take away their driving abilities,” Saunders said. “They took advantage of our lack of help defense sometimes.”
West High got as close as 63-60 on a pair of free throws by Maddie Huinker with 5:16 left but the Tigers got a basket by Feldt and then made 10 straight free throws to secure the win.
Feldt led Valley with 22 points while Hannah Fuller had 17 and Shea Fuller and Zoe Young each had 12.
Huinker had 12 for West High which travels to second-ranked City High on Tuesday.
“They are a great team and every timewe play teams like that we realize what we have to work on,” Cook said. “That is what we are going to take into City on Tuesday.”
West High 11 22 19 19 – 71
WDM Valley 14 22 21 20 – 77
West Des Moines Valley (77) – Casey Carrr 2-4 0-0 4, Zoe Young 5-11 2-2 12, Shea Fuller 4-8 2-4 12, Jackie Feldt 7-12 8-11 22, Alex Honnold 1-2 2-2 4, Jamie Feldt 1-4 4-6 6, Hannah Fuller 5-11 7-7 17, Team 25-52 25-32 77.
West High (72) – Cailyn Morgan 1-6 1-2 3, Lauren Zacharias 2-8 2-2 7, Rachael Saunders 6-15 6-9 21, Katie McGrane 2-2 0-0 6, Maddie Huinker 2-8 7-8 12, Logan Cook 7-13 1-4 16, Emma Koch 0-3 1-2 2, Paige Beckner 2-2 0-0 5, Team 22-57 18-27 72.
3-point field goals – ICW 9-22 (Morgan 0-1, Zacharias 1-4, Saunders 3-6, McGrane 2-2, Huinker 1-6, Cook 1-2, Beckner 1-1), WDV 2-10 (Young 0-2, S. Fuller 2-4, Jam. Feldt 0-1, H. Fuller 0-3). Rebounds – ICW 32 (Morgan 6), WDV 38 (Honnold, H. Fuller 8). Turnovers – ICW 10, WDV 11. Total fouls – ICW 23, WDV 19. Fouled out – Koch (ICW). Technical fouls – None.