Your Prep Sports
West High extended its streak of consecutive semifinal appearances to seven on Wednesday afternoon.
The most recent trip to the final four of the Class 4A state tournament didn’t come without some anxious moments.
Top-ranked West High (21-3) overcame a 45-43 fourth-quarter deficit and some shaky free throw shooting in the final minute to escape with a 57-51 win over Newton (19-6) in the Class 4A state tournament opener at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
Devontae Lane and Connor McCaffery each scored 18 points and West High came up with enough late stops to return to win a state tournament opener for the seventh straight season.
West High will face Cedar Rapids Kennedy in a Mississippi Valley Conference regular season rematch in the 4A semifinals on Friday at 1:30 p.m. The Trojans won the regular season meeting 83-53 over Kennedy on January 31.
“Here is the deal if you lose you are done, if you win you get to play Friday and Saturday, we are getting kind of used to that,” West High coach Steve Bergman said. “So, now we get the opportunity that you don’t have if you just don’t’ get it done. We showed a lot of courage I thought and that was just digging in and playing defense.”
West High held Newton scoreless for nearly six minutes to open the fourth quarter to win a down-to-the-wire 4A quarterfinal for the second straight season.
Last year West High held off Des Moines Hoover 51-48 in its 4A opener en route to its fourth title game appearance in five seasons.
Wednesday’s meeting with unranked Newton was every bit as stressful.
The Newton backcourt tandem of Connor Gholson and Garrett Sturtz combined for 44 points as the Cardinals pushed West High to the limit in their first state tournament appearance since 1992.
Gholson finished with a game-high 24 points and Sturtz had 20 points, five rebounds and three assists but could only muster six points in the fourth quarter as West High put the game away.
“They have two guys that are just real gifted scorers and we let them do a good job,” Bergman said. “But in the fourth quarter we were getting stops.”
The Trojans didn’t allow a point for more than five minutes to open the fourth quarter while scoring six unanswered points to turn a two-point deficit into a 49-45 lead.
Lane’s putback of a missed Connor McCaffery 3-pointer with 4:15 left gave West High a 47-45 lead it would never give up.
“I was just trying to calm down guys and have guys relax,” Lane said. “I was trying to get guys to play the game and let the game come to them.
West High led 52-47 with 1:43 to play after Patrick McCaffery made 3-of-4 free throws in back-to-back trips to the free throw line.
The Trojans missed three of their next four free throw attempts to crack the door for the Cardinals.
Connor McCaffery missed a pair of free throws with 56 seconds left as Newton closed to 52-51 on a Gholson twisting shot off the glass with 43 seconds left.
An 83 percent free throw shooter on the season, McCaffery finished 6-of-10 at the line on Wednesday and was 4-of-8 in the second half.
“Connor is probably not going to miss another free throw the rest of the tournament,” Bergman said. “That is a prediction right now.”
West High put the game away with defense.
The Trojans didn’t allow a point in the final 43 seconds and made four of six free throws in the final 30 seconds to secure the win.
After allowing Newton to shoot 59 percent in the first half, West High limited the Cardinals to 39 percent shooting in the second half and just 3-of-10 shooting in the fourth quarter.
Newton had five of its 10 turnovers in the final eight minutes.
“We survived, we did some things I thought with our defense in the first half that was not characteristic but the second half I thought it was better,” Bergman said. “We kind of the let the genie out of the bottle in the first half. They are a very good offensive team but in the second half I thought we got a lot of stops. We uncharacteristically missed some free throw that we normally make.”
Sturtz and Gholson combined for 23 points in the opening half as Newton took a two-point halftime lead.
Newton closed the second quarter with eight unanswered points to take a 30-28 lead into the break.
The backcourt duo accounted for all 21 second-half points for Newton but went just 7-of-18 from the field after making 10-of-15 field goal attempts in the first half.
Sturtz had 12 at the half but was limited to 2-of-6 shooting in the second half.
“I didn’t do a good job on him in the first half, I let him have a couple of back doors which we knew they were going to do on film,” Connor McCaffery said. “In the second half, I just worked harder to deny him.”
West High will now focus on returning to the state title game for the second straight season.
The Trojans are seeking their first state championship since 2014.
“I hope that the next two games that we play aren’t really quite shaky like that,” Lane said. “I think it was good for the guys that haven’t played here a lot because it really relaxes them and gets all the nerves out and gets all the jitters out.”
West High 19 9 15 14 – 57
Newton 14 16 15 6 – 51
West High (57) – Devontae Lane 5-14 6-7 18, Nate Disterhoft 0-0 1-2 1, Patrick McCaffery 0-1 3-4 3, Connor McCaffery 5-12 6-10 18, Izaya Ono-Fullard 2-2 1-2 7, Seybian Sims 2-2 0-0 4, Evan Flitz 0-0 0-0 0, Hakeem Odunsi 2-3 2-3 6, Team 16-34 19-28 57.
Newton (51) – Garrett Sturtz 7-13 6-8 20, Connor Gholson 10-20 1-1 24, Trey Vanderlaan 2-3 0-0 5, Josh Ventling 0-0 0-0 0, Morgan Maher 1-3 0-1 2, Grayson Graham 0-1 0-0 0, Team 20-40 7-10 51.
3-point field goals – ICW 6-14 (Lane 2-5, C. McCaffery 2-7, Ono-Fullard 2-2), NEW 4-10 (Gholson 3-9, Vanderlaan 1-1). Rebounds – ICW 24 (Disterhoft, C. McCaffery 4), NEW 20 (Maher 6). Assists – ICW 10 (Lane, P. McCaffery 3), NEW 8 (Sturtz, Maher 3). Turnovers – ICW 10, NEW 10. Total fouls – ICW 12, NEW 20. Fouled out – West High (P. McCaffery), Newton (Ventling, Maher). Technical fouls – None.