By Pat Harty
Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – The third-ranked West High girls basketball team had just handed No. 2 City High its first loss of the season minutes earlier when Cailyn Morgan wrapped her arms around her father.
They shared a long, emotional embrace as both had reason to be proud about Morgan’s performance in Tuesday’s 63-58 victory at a packed City gymnasium. The sophomore came off the bench and scored 15 points to help the Women of Troy avenge an overtime loss to City earlier in the season.
“It felt great,” Morgan said of being hugged by her father, former Iowa basketball player Michael Morgan. “It really did.”
For a while, it looked as if City would be sharing victorious post-game hugs. A basket by junior star Ashley Joens expanded City’s lead to 24-15 early in the second quarter.
West sophomore forward Emma Koch then made one of her four 3-point baskets with 5 minutes, 38 seconds left in the second quarter. Her basket triggered a 17-3 scoring run for West to close the second quarter, which ended with West leading 32-27 at halftime.
“We knew that we had to get back into the game not playing individually and everyone has their own role,” Morgan said. “So we knew that if we played together, we would really get this game.”
Morgan was among four players for West who scored in double figures in Tuesday’s game, led by Koch with 16 points.
Morgan was almost perfect from the field, making 5-of-6 field-goal attempts and all four of her free throws.
“I felt great and I knew we were going to have a big crowd tonight and that always motivates us,” Morgan said. “I knew my role when I came out was to start with really good defense. But I knew in this game, I had to do a lot more.”
West coach B.J Mayer praised Morgan for letting the game come to her instead of trying to force things on offense.
“She’s good at taking what she gets,” Mayer said. “If she’s open, she’s going to shoot it.
“We don’t have red lights probably until the end. We’re trying to score. So all of our kids have green lights and we tell them shooting percentage should dictate your shot selection. So if I’ve made three in a row, let it fly.”
Asked what ignited his team’s 17-3 scoring run, Mayer said:
“We got tougher. In the first quarter, they were getting every rebound and every loose ball. We were getting bumped and we were taking it. And we really challenged them in that second quarter because Valley did the same thing and we weren’t as tough as Valley and we needed to step up our toughness.”
Mayer was referring to West’s loss to West Des Moines Valley this past Saturday. It was only West’s second loss of the season, but it served as sort of a wake-up call.
City (14-1) now finds itself in the unusual position of rebounding from a loss. The Little Hawks will look to get back on the winning track against Dubuque Hempstead on Friday.
“We never want to lose on purpose, but when you’re no longer undefeated, the tension shouldn’t be there the next time the game is close,” said City coach Bill McTaggart.
City only made three baskets in the second quarter, including just one in the final six minutes. However, it was on defense where the Little Hawks really struggled in the second quarter.
“They beat us up and down the floor and we didn’t create any turnovers in that stretch,’ McTaggart said. “Our defense starts our offense and I thought for about five minutes we didn’t get any deflections on defense and we took some bad shots on the offensive side.”
City started the third quarter on a 10-4 scoring and took a 37-36 lead on a basket by Ashley Joens about midway through the quarter.
West then closed the third quarter with a 9-5 scoring run and led 45-42 heading to the fourth quarter.
The Women of Troy expanded the lead to five points in the fourth quarter at 52-47 before freshman Aubrey Joens scored five consecutive points to even the score at 52 with 3:04 remaining.
West made 7-of-8 free throws in the final 1:54 to help secure the victory.
Ashley Joens led City with 16 points, but her baskets didn’t come easy against West’s defensive pressure. Joens only made 5-of-16 field-goal attempts.
West junior Logan Cook spent most of the game defending Joens. Cook’s size at 6-1 and her length made it difficult for Joens to get open looks.
“Ashely Joens is a great player and we have to stop her because she’s great at driving,’ said Cook, who also scored 11 points. “I just tried to keep my hands up and not foul and bother her with my length. I think that helped.”
Ashley Joens said West was more aggressive in the second quarter and that led to the big scoring run.
“They just kept attacking the basket and we didn’t really defend it as well,” she said. “And then we just needed to get back on defense because they went on a lot of fast-break runs.”
West High 13 19 13 18 – 63
City High 19 8 15 16 – 58
West (63) – Logan Cook 5-11 1-2 11, Rachael Saunders 4-8 2-2 11, Lauren Zacharias 2-2 2-2 6, Emma Koch 5-12 2-2 16, Maddie Huinker 0-4 1-2 1, Cailyn Morgan 5-6 4-4 15, Ali Tauchen 1-1 1-2 3, Paige Beckner 0-1 0-0 0, Katie McGrane 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-46 13-16 63.
City (58) – Ashley Joens 5-16 5-8 16, Kenya Earl 3-9 0-0 7, Aubrey Joens 3-7 4-5 12, Rose Nkumu 6-8 3-4 15, Sydney Schroder 3-9 0-1 8, Paige Rocca 0-1 0-0 0, Samantha Greving 0-0 0-0 0, Mikayla Lacey 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-50 12-18 58.
3-point goals – West High 6 (Emma Koch 4, Saunders, Morgan); City High 6 (Aubrey Joens 2, Sydney Schroder 2, Ashley Joens, Kenya Earl). Fouls – West 16, City 16.