By Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
DES MOINES – BJ Mayer warned his team about games like this.
The West High coach told his team time and time again there would be a game when shots weren’t falling and points would be hard to come by.
When that game came along, Mayer promised, defense would be the difference.
That game came Wednesday against sixth-ranked Waukee in the state quarterfinals and West High showed it had been listening to Mayer.
Third-ranked West High held Waukee (18-5) to a season-low 38 points on 30 percent shooting and escaped with a 40-38 win in the Class 5A state tournament at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
“It was a really low scoring game compared to what we are used to and we really shut them down on defense,” West High senior Maddie Huinker said. “Coach always tells us that our defense will carry us when shots aren’t falling and we were focused in on their individual players and I think we were really prepared for their offense.”
West High (21-3) overcame its own season-low scoring output and the early loss of junior standout Rachael Saunders to a knee injury to advance to the 5A semifinals for the second time in three seasons.
Cailyn Morgan hit a floater with 50 seconds to snap a 38-all tie and then secured the game clinching rebound on the ensuing possession as West High won its state opener for the fourth time in five trips.
“I just knew that we needed to make one shot,” Morgan said. “I wanted to make a smart shot and I thought my best option was to drive if there was an opening and I saw an opening.”
West High battled through its own offensive struggles on Wednesday.
The Women of Troy shot 40 percent from the field and failed to reach 50 points for the second time this season and first since December 2.
None of it could stop West High from moving on.
“I thought we did a really good job on defense and did just enough stuff down the stretch on offense,” Mayer said. “We showed a lot of courage and guts because it would have been easy to say ‘oh we had a good run’.
Logan Cook had 13 points and Morgan added nine while spending most of the game locked on Waukee all-stater Carlie Littlefield on the defensive end.
Morgan helped West High hold Littlefield to 15 points and 5-of-13 shooting as the Warriors finished 29 points below their season scoring average.
“I’m so proud of Cailyn she did a great job on Carlie Littlefield,” Cook said. “She was really good on her and that was huge for us.”
Sophomore Emma Koch had seven points and a game-high 14 rebounds as West High held a 33-26 rebounding edge over Waukee.
“Coach just told us that we had to calm down and shots would fall, we need to get on the boards and shut them down on defense,” Koch said. “Defensive stops were huge at that point so we just focused in on defense and if our shots fell our shots fell.”
West High made three of its first five field goal attempts and led 12-4 after Lauren Zacharias hit a 3-poitner with 3:31 left in the opening quarter.
Things quickly ground to a half for West High offensively.
West High missed its final field goal attempts of the opening quarter and went 3-of-11 from the floor in the second as Waukee closed to within 20-18 at the half.
The offensive struggles continued after halftime.
West High made just seven of 25 field goals over a span of nearly 20 minutes after the 3-pointer by Zacharias midway through the opening quarter.
Both teams had plenty of open shots from the perimeter and good looks from inside the lane but failed to convert.
“It is frustrating when you aren’t making those wide-open shots but I think the thing is we all made shots when we needed to, they were there when we needed them,” Huinker said. “We have enough players that can score on our team that if someone is not shooting well that we have other people to lean on and I think that was a big strength.”
Waukee tied the score at 38-all on a Littlefield 3-pointer with 1:46 left.
That would be the final points of the game for the Warriors.
Morgan put West High on top with 50 seconds left when she drove into the lane and converted a short jumper.
West High then survived a second straight overtime contest with the Waukee when Jori Neiman couldn’t get a driving layup to fall in the final seconds.
“We never got down on ourselves and I think that’s how we ended up winning,” Cook said. “We played good defense. When our shots weren’t falling defense is what we went to.”
West High 12 8 9 11 – 40
Waukee 10 8 12 8 – 38
West High (40) – Lauren Zacharias 2-4 0-0 5, Rachael Saunders 1-1 0-0 3, Maddie Huinker 1-6 0-0 3, Logan Cook 6-13 1-2 13, Emma Koch 1-3 5-6 7, Cailyn Morgan 4-11 0-0 9, Katie McGrane 0-0 0-0 0, Paige Beckner 0-0 0-0 0, Team 15-38 6-8 40.
Waukee (38) – Kylie Coleman 2-6 0-0 6, Rebecca Corbett 3-9 2-2 8, Carlie Littlefield 5-13 4-6 15, Jori Nieman 3-12 0-2 7, Brianna Hartman 1-2 0-0 2, Kelli Fogt 0-2 0-0 0, Callie Earney 0-2 0-0 0, Team 14-46 6-10 38.
3-point field goals – ICW 4-15 (Zacharias 1-2, Saunders 1-1, Huinker 1-5, Cook 0-2, Koch 0-1, Morgan 1-4), WAU 4-11 (Coleman 2-3, Corbett 0-4, Littlefield 1-1, Nieman 1-2, Fogt 0-1). Rebounds – ICW 33 (Koch 14), WAU 28 (Nieman, Hartman 5). Assists – ICW 8 (Zacharias 3), WAU 7 (Nieman 4). Turnovers ICW 7, WAU 12. Total fouls – ICW 10, WAU 13. Fouled out – None. Technical fouls – None.