By Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
DES MOINES – Every basketball player wants to be the one to hit the big shot.
Emma Koch has made some big baskets in her career but the West High sophomore has made her biggest impact collecting missed shots.
Koch has averaged 5.7 rebounds per game through her first two high school seasons.
“I’ve always been a pretty good rebounder,” Koch said. “It’s something I’ve tried to focus on.”
Over the final few weeks of the season Koch was a lot more than pretty good on the glass.
The 5-foot-11 Koch recorded double digit rebounds in each of the final three games of the season, helping West High return to the state semifinals for the second time in three seasons.
Koch had a career-high 17 rebounds in a regional final win over Southeast Polk and followed with performances of 14 and 10 rebounds at the state tournament.
“She was really huge for us, to have 17, 14 and 10 in the last three games of year says a lot about her desire to go get the basketball but also about her knowledge of the game,” West High coach BJ Mayer said. “She knew where the ball was going to go and she was always in the right place.”
Averaging 13.6 rebounds over the final three games is slightly out of the ordinary for just about any player.
However, Koch pacing West High on the glass is no surprise.
Koch ranked second on the team with 4.7 rebounds per game last season as a freshman and led the Women of Troy with 6.7 boards a game this year.
“She has a motor that doesn’t stop, she wants to go get the ball,” Mayer said. “Her knowledge of the game and her teammates and where shots are going to come from is really big for her. You can figure out if it’s a long shot we are going to go get a long rebound and she is smart enough to know those kinds of things.”
Koch was at her best with the season on the line.
She had eight points and 17 rebounds, including eight offensive boards in a 60-54 win over Southeast Polk in the regional final.
Koch followed that performance up with a 14-rebound, seven-point showing in a Class 5A state quarterfinal win over Waukee.
“In those one or two possession games every play counts, every rebound counts,” Koch said. “You just really have to focus all the time and do your job because you know every game is going to come down to the end.”
Koch had a game-high 10 rebounds in a 55-48 loss to West Des Moines Valley.
Thanks in large part to the work of Koch on the glass, West High outrebounded its four postseason opponents by an average of more than eight rebounds a game.
“Coach Mayer talked to us about when we rebound really well we usually play really well,” Koch said. “We always put a lot of effort into rebounding and getting on the glass and doing what we can.”
Koch showed she is more than just a rebounder this season, scoring 7.3 points per game to rank fifth on the team.
Still she believed her biggest improvements still came in the area that has been her biggest strength during her high school career.
“I think I’m rebounding better than I was at the beginning of the year,” Koch said. “I have a higher basketball IQ now and that helped me with my rebounding.”