By Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
DES MOINES – West High did everything required to pull off an upset on Friday.
The third-ranked Women of Troy controlled the tempo, played some of their best defense of the season, won the rebounding battle and kept opposing star players in check.
It was everything West High coach BJ Mayer believed his team had to do to upset second-ranked West Des Moines Valley in the Class 5A semifinals.
Third-ranked West High led by seven at the half and pushed Valley to the limit but couldn’t overcome 30 percent shooting and 19 turnovers in a 55-48 loss to the Tigers at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
“We did a lot of what we had to, obviously you’d like to make more shots, we struggled from the field and they probably had something to do with it,” Mayer said. “I thought we played great defense, we got to the free throw line which is what we wanted to do but we didn’t make enough shots.”
It was a more than game effort from a short-handed West High who played without its second leading scorer Rachael Saunders who missed the game with a knee injury sustained in a quarterfinal win over Waukee.
Even without Saunders, West High gave itself chances.
West High (21-4) had a 21-14 halftime lead and trailed by just one with under three minutes to play but missed its final three field goal attempts as Valley scored seven of the game’s final nine points.
“I think we did as a much as we could and each of us did our job as well as we could,” West High sophomore Cailyn Morgan said. “We tried our best this game, we just didn’t get a win.”
The win was the sixth straight for Valley over West High during the past four seasons and sends the Tigers to the state title game for the second time in three seasons.
Hannah Fuller had 13 points and seven rebounds and Alex Honnold had 12 points and seven boards for Valley (22-2) which will face Cedar Falls (23-2) in the 5A title game on Saturday at 8 p.m.
“We came in at halftime and we were struggling a little bit in the first half and we got our momentum back, we came together as a team and we talked about changing our attitudes and being positive,” Fuller said. “We hit adversity in the first half but we bounced back in the second that’s what matters.”
West High trailed 8-2 less than four minutes into the game but battled back to trail by just a point after the opening quarter.
The Women of Troy used a mixture of intense player-to-player defense and a 2-3 zone to stifle Valley in the second quarter.
West High didn’t allow a field goal in the second quarter, forcing the Tigers in 0-of-9 shooting from the floor while outscoring Valley 12-4 to build a 21-14 halftime lead.
“They have great players so we knew we had to work hard to get stops,” West High junior Logan Cook said. “We were able to do that the first half.”
Facing a Valley team that led 5A averaging 75 points per game, West High was able to slow the first-half tempo to a crawl.
West High shot just 25 percent and had nine turnovers in the first half but led after limiting Valley to 23 percent shooting.
“We talked a lot about getting back because we knew they were going to try to run,” Morgan said. “We worked really hard at trying to keep someone back there to stop them from getting out and getting those layups.”
Valley showed early in the second half how explosive it can be.
Valley made seven of its 16 field goals during a 20-point third quarter that turned a seven-point deficit into a 34-31 lead. West High never pulled even.
“I thought we played really well defensively and it’s hard when those guys get going,” Mayer said. “When they get that dribble weave going and they get going down hill. We thought we probably needed a couple of charges and we didn’t get those charges.
Valley took its biggest lead of the game at 46-36 on a Honnold layup with 5:08 left.
West High wouldn’t go quietly.
The Women of Troy scored the next eight points, cutting the lead to 46-44 when Lauren Zacharias found Cook with a perfect pass in transition for a layup with 3:20 left.
The key play in the 8-0 spurt was a steal by Morgan that the sophomore converted into a conventional 3-point play.
“I thought we were going to win it the entire game,” Morgan said. “I had that mentality the whole time, I wasn’t going to give up and I wasn’t going to let my team down.”
West High had the ball trailing by two twice in the final 2:30 but missed its final three field goals and had four of its 19 turnovers in the final two minutes.
“Losing that kind of a player like Rachael and for our kids to come out and do what they did in the first half and put a charge on in that late fourth quarter to cut it back to one or two says a lot about their character,” Mayer said. “It says they are competitors and they were going to leave it on the floor and that’s what we asked them to do.”
Cook had a game-high 17 points and eight rebounds to pace West High while Morgan added 11 points.
Senior Katie McGrane came off the bench to score eight points while sophomore Emma Koch had 10 rebounds.
“We had really good stretches where we played well enough to come out with a win but we had stretches where we didn’t play very well,” Cook said. “I think that’s what hurt us the most.”
West High 9 12 10 17 – 48
West Des Moines Valley 10 4 20 21 – 55
West High (48) – Cailyn Morgan 4-9 3-3 11, Lauren Zacharias 0-2 6-6 6, Maddie Huinker 1-5 1-2 3, Logan Cook 5-11 7-10 17, Emma Koch 0-6 1-2 1, Katie McGrane 3-6 1-2 8, Paige Beckner 0-4 2-2 2, Team 13-43 21-27 48.
West Des Moines Valley (55) – Zoe Young 1-7 4-6 7, Jackie Feldt 2-6 3-7 7, Alex Honnold 6-8 0-2 12, Jamie Feldt 0-2 7-8 7, Hannah Fuller 5-11 2-6 13, Shea Fuller 2-8 4-4 9, Team 16-42 20-33 55.
3-point field goals – ICW 1-10 (Morgan 0-2, Huinker 0-3, Cook 0-1, McGrane 1-2, Beckner 0-2), WDV 3-15 (Young 1-5, Jac. Feldt 0-1, Jam. Feldt 0-1, H. Fuller 1-4, S. Fuller 1-4). Rebounds – ICW 40 (Koch 10), WDV 36 (Honnold, H. Fuller 7). Assists – ICW 8 (Zacharias, Huinker 2), WDV 7 (S. Fuller 2). Turnovers – ICW 19, WDV 13. Total fouls – ICW 27, WDV 19. Fouled out – West High (Huinker). Technical fouls – None.