By Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – BJ Mayer wasn’t worried about finding added motivation for his team in the week leading up to the state tournament.
West High got a little extra incentive anyway when the Class 5A brackets were announced last week.
Third-ranked West High (20-3) will face Waukee (18-4) for the first time since last year’s regional final in the Class 5A quarterfinals on Wednesday at 6:45 p.m. at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
Waukee ended West High’s season with a 70-68 overtime victory in the regional final meeting last February.
“We didn’t have to say too much when the pairings came out,” Mayer said. “Looking at the rankings if everybody won you kind of knew it was going to be Waukee. We are excited to be playing them, they are well coached, they have some really good players but it’s one that I think we can compete with them.”
Last year’s regional final was a classic.
West High had a chance to win in the closing seconds of regulation and a chance to send the game to a second overtime.
The Women of Troy couldn’t take advantage of either and missed an opportunity for a second consecutive trip to state.
While it stung at the time, Mayer believes it was the regional final loss to Waukee that helped West High return to the state tournament this year.
“To be that close it really hurt and it’s kind of driven some of our kids,” Mayer said. “Waukee played great, we played great, obviously it didn’t end the way we wanted it to but I think that game showed us how close we were. It gave us that mindset that the first game of this season we were already thinking about state.”
When its quarterfinal opponent was announced the immediate reaction for West High was a chance at redemption against the team that ended its season last year.
The same five players that started last year’s regional final at Waukee are expected to start for West High in the state opener against the Warriors.
Still, senior Maddie Huinker says West High isn’t out for revenge.
“You definitely think of that game right away, ending in an overtime loss and then hearing that we were playing Waukee at first we were thinking about revenge but it’s been a while and we are both completely different teams now,” Huinker said. “We’re a different team and they are a different team.”
Both teams are different this season but one of the things that hasn’t changed from last year’s meeting is the Warriors relying on Carly Littlefield.
Littlefield had 14 points, eight assists and five rebounds in the regional final win over West High last year.
This season the 5-foot-9 senior guard is averaging 19.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game.
“The thing that I like about her is she is very versatile,” Mayer said of Littlefield. “They will put her at the point, she will go post up, she will go on the wing you name it she is going to do it so we are going to have our hands full with her. They have some other kids that help her out but she is definitely the focal point.”