Balanced West High Offense All About ‘Just Doing Your Job’
By Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – No coach wants their players divulging information on the offensive game plan leading up to the biggest game of the season.
That didn’t stop West High sophomore Cailyn Morgan from revealing the key to the West High offense less than a week before the third-ranked Women of Troy meet No. 6 Waukee (18-4) in the Class 5A state quarterfinals.
Morgan wasn’t worried about the reaction of West High coach BJ Mayer when she gave up the secret to what has made the Women of Troy one of the most balanced and toughest teams in Class 5A to defend.
The secret, Morgan made known, is there is no secret.
“There isn’t a secret to it,” Morgan explained. “I think we all just do our job.”
Seemingly everyone for West High (20-3) has been doing their offensive job to perfection these days.
Six different players have led West High in scoring this season and eight players have produced double digit scoring outputs.
That offensive balance was instrumental in helping West High return to the state tournament for fifth time in the past seven years.
As Morgan explained the success comes from every player doing their job.
So, what are the jobs for all eight West High regulars that together make the Women of Troy a smoothly running offensive machine?
The Go-To Players
West High is one of two teams in the Class 5A state tournament field that does not have three players averaging in double figures.
Instead West High counters with its balanced attack with six players scoring between 5.8 and 15 points per game.
Just because West High has eight players that have proven they are capable of putting up double figures that doesn’t mean the Women of Troy don’t have a standout or two.
Juniors Logan Cook and Rachael Saunders fit that role.
“This team reminds me of our team in 2011 when we had Ally (Disterhoft) and McKenzie Piper and we finished second,” Mayer said. “That team was about six or seven deep and we had the same kind of stuff where we had Ally and McKenzie but then we had other kids that averaged about eight points a game so it’s really similar.”
The individual numbers from the 2011 squad to this year’s team are nearly identical.
Disterhoft averaged exactly 15 a game and Piper 11.3. Five other players scored between 5.4 and eight points per game.
Enter state tournament play Cook averages a team-high 15 while Saunders is second on the team at 12.8 points per game.
Four other players scored between 5.8 and 8.1.
Saunders is a Creighton commit while Cook is building a nice division 1 offer list.
Neither player is Disterhoft, who just earned first-team all-Big Ten honors as a senior at Iowa, but neither need to be right now.
“On this team nobody feels that there is one player that is really the star and that creates a balanced environment for us,” Saunders said. “No one has to feel like they have to do everything.”
No offense can run smoothly without a leader.
In football it’s the quarterback, in basketball the point guard. For West High it’s Lauren Zacharias.
Just a sophomore, Zacharias is already approaching 50 career starts and is mature beyond her years.
The job for the 5-foot-5 Zacharias is straight forward, get the ball to the hot hand.
“It’s just about getting people the ball that have been hot the whole night,” Zacharias said. “Sometimes it’s Rachael sometimes it’s Maddie (Huinker) or Logan. We know if one of those people is having an off night to keep moving the ball and to have other people start shooting. We will always have someone that has a good night, it’s not always going to be the same person.”
Zacharias leads West High with 76 assists and is one of the six different players to lead the Women of Troy in scoring in a game.
She ranks fourth on the team in scoring, averaging 7.7 points per game.
“It’s really fun because people don’t know how to guard us,” Zacharias said. “Other teams have those one or two shooters that will keep them going and it’s really fun to see how teams deal with us because it’s difficult when we always have more than two people scoring.”
Every member of the West High starting five averages at least 7.6 points per game.
The offensive punch doesn’t stop there.
Morgan, senior Katie McGrane and junior Paige Beckner have all provided a boost off the bench this season.
McGrane has led the team in scoring and Morgan had a season-high 15 points in a win over fourth-ranked City High.
Morgan averages 5.8 points while McGrane is scoring 3.7 off the bench.
“I don’t mind coming off the bench, someone has to do it,” Morgan said. “When I come in my first role is play defense and if my shot is on then I am just going to keep shooting.”
Morgan, Huinker and Mayer all praised Beckner for the defensive intensity she brings off the bench.
The 6-foot-1 forward has quietly provided an offensive boost for West.
Beckner had a career-high 14 points in a regional semifinal win over Ottumwa and is averaging better than three points per game while shooting 42 percent from 3-point range.
“Those two years we were in the finals in 2011 and 2012 we had Tatum Klein who ends up to be a third-team all-stater and she came off the bench and this year we have a couple of pretty good kids coming off the bench in Paige and Cailyn,” Mayer said.
The most important job in a selfless offense like the one West High strives for is being a good teammate.
Every coach talks about sharing the ball and making unselfish plays.
For an offense and team like West High’s to work you need to have players that truly embrace that motto.
West High believes they do.
“No one is trying to get their points we are all just trying to win,” Huinker said. “Whoever’s night it is we just try to get them the ball.”
That has worked well for West High which has had at least four players in double figures in two of its final three games.
“That’s kind of the way that we’ve tried to play ever since we got here,” Mayer said. “I’m all about the team being more important and if the team does well individual stats and glory are going to come but it does take a special group of kids to be able to put their egos aside and say whatever I need to do I’m going to do and I have that and it’s very refreshing because that doesn’t happen a lot.”