By Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
DES MOINES – Any way you look at it West Des Moines Valley has controlled the recent series with West High.
Valley has won all five meetings over the past four seasons, four by at least nine points including a 16-point win in the only state tournament meeting between the teams in the 2015 semifinals.
Most teams would be disappointed about facing an opponent that had given them so much trouble in the past.
Maddie Huinker and her West High teammates wouldn’t have it any other way.
West High (21-3) will get another shot against Valley (22-2) in the Class 5A semifinals on Friday at 3:15 p.m. at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
“We haven’t been able to get over the hump and get a win against them and I think that makes it even better,” Huinker said. “I’m really looking forward to playing them again, I think everyone is looking forward to having another game. I wouldn’t call it a rivalry because we haven’t won yet but I think we are going to have a really good chance on Friday.”
The lone senior starter for West High, Huinker is 0-5 against the Tigers during her career.
That mark includes the 57-41 loss in the 2015 semifinals and a 77-71 regular season setback on January 21 in Iowa City.
“I’m really looking forward to playing them again, I haven’t gotten a win against them in my career,” Huinker said. “I think everyone is looking forward to having another shot at them.”
West High used a strong defensive effort in a 40-38 quarterfinal win over Waukee to return to the semifinals for the first time since its 2015 loss to Valley.
The Women of Troy may need to be ever better on defense on Friday.
Second-ranked Valley is the top scoring team in 5A at 69.8 points per game and put up 87 points in a 23-point, quarterfinal rout of seventh-ranked West Des Moines Dowling on Wednesday.
Five players scored in double figures for Valley in the 87-64 win over Dowling on Wednesday as the Tigers shot 53 percent from the field and were 8-of-19 from 3-point range.
Senior Jackie Feldt led Valley with 23 points in the quarterfinal win while sophomore point guard Zoe Young had 13 points and set a 5A tournament record with 11 assists.
“They are a team that is really good on offense,” Huinker said. “I can say that for their team and our team our offense comes from our defense. I think that’s what it’s going to come down to is who has the best defense and who’s shots fall.”
Knocking off a Valley team that brings a 15-game winning streak into the semifinals is a tall task for third-ranked West High.
That challenge may be even tougher for West High after junior Rachael Saunders left Wednesday’s quarterfinal in the first quarter with an apparent knee injury.
Saunders ranks second on the team with 12.4 points per game and had a team-high 21 in the regular season meeting with Valley.
“Valley is really good, they have had our number lately and I don’t think anyone is going to feel sorry for us because we may or may not have Rachael,” West High coach BJ Mayer said. “The state championship game is on the line so nobody is going to care what we are like and what we feel like but knowing our kids we are going to buckle down and we are going to come out and compete and hopefully we will have a chance to survive and advance.”
West High hasn’t played in a state title game since it won the 2012 4A title one year after falling in the championship game.
The only championship game appearance for Valley in the last decade came when it defeated West High in the 2015 semifinals.
West High hopes to reverse that outcome on Friday.
“I’m so excited to play them, I think it’s going to be a great game, we are hoping it goes better this time,” West High junior Logan Cook said. “I think we just need to do what we are doing. We need to get better and keep improving and pick up the defense.”