Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – This wasn’t the senior season Matayia Tellis imagined.
She never imagined a global pandemic shortening her senior season or a knee injury taking away more games or a broken nose threatening to keep her off the court even longer.
Tellis could have never anticipated any of those possible pitfalls during her final prep season.
While all of those obstacles for the West High senior point guard were impossible to predict her teammates and coaches knew exactly how Tellis would respond to those setbacks.
That was never in doubt.
“Her toughness is definitely unmatched so I knew she could handle anything,” West High senior Audrey Koch said. “She is so tough, I already knew that but especially going through what she has gone through this season, having a knee injury and then having to wear a regular mask for covid and then a face mask for her nose. Her toughness is amazing.”
Tellis has been bringing that toughness to the court for four seasons at West High.
A member of the Trojans’ state title team in 2018, Tellis is a three-year starter that has always brought a certain sense of swagger to the floor.
A natural leader by position as a point guard Tellis also brings a physical presence to the court.
It’s that no-fear attitude that helped the 5-foot-5 point guard lead West High in rebounding last season and makes her a fearless defender.
“You need that toughness and physicalness on a team and she brings that to us and it’s huge,” West High coach BJ Mayer said. “She is always on the floor diving for loose balls and taking charges, and guarding the best player and she is still averaging four or five rebounds, three or four assists, three or four steals and 11 points. She is just invaluable.”
This season Tellis has seemed down right indestructible.
She went down with a knee injury in a January 2 loss to Southeast Polk and feared her season was over.
“I was pretty nervous when I went down,” Tellis said. “I was trying to get back up and play and (West High athletic trainer) Sheila (Stiles) was like you are done for today and I thought that was my season right there.”
Instead Tellis got cleared to return to action and was back on the court a little more than two weeks later.
After coming off the bench in a win over Cedar Rapids Prairie on January 19 Tellis had 14 points, six rebounds and five assists in her first game back in the starting lineup in a road win at No. 12 City High.
When I got cleared I was so happy, that was just a great relief,” Tellis said. “I learned a lot about our team chemistry while I was out and we had a lot of people step up when and I was very thankful for that. I thought that was really good for our team.”
In seven games after returning from the knee injury the production from Tellis has actually risen.
She is averaging 12.7 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists in her last seven games including a 15-point, 4-rebound, 3-assist effort against Davenport North in the regional final.
That regional final performance in her final home game came after Tellis suffered another setback the week prior, a broken nose in practice.
A wayward elbow from a teammate caught Tellis square face and a trip to the doctor the following day declared a broken nose.
That diagnoses came with a mandate to wear a protective face shield going forward.
“It’s annoying,” Tellis said laughing. “I have to practice with it and coach Mayer makes me keep it on. It’s stressful.”
The day of the regional final against Davenport North came another trip to the doctor.
“It hurt really bad and they had to pop it back in place the day of the Davenport North game,” Tellis said. “It hurt.” I still can’t breathe very good through it but it’s fine.
None of that has kept Tellis from enjoying the best season of her career.
She is averaging a career-best 11.3 points per game to go with 3.9 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 2.4 steals.
None of those stats tell the full story of what Tellis provides for sixth-ranked West High (13-3), a list of qualities that starts with toughness and leadership.
“Matayia brings so much to our team, she is a huge defensive player for us the way that she can guard girls but her offense is also so good the way she can drive and get to the basket but also hit 3s,” Koch said. “She brings a ton of energy and really helps everyone with nerves and makes them loose. She brings so much to our team.”
On the court Tellis has improved her offensive arsenal as a senior.
A 27 percent 3-point shooter during her first three seasons Tellis is shooting 43 percent from the 3-point line as a senior while making a career-best 51 percent of her field goal attempts.
“It’s huge as a freshman she was probably more of a defensive kid but she wasn’t afraid to shoot the ball,” Mayer said. “She has just gotten better and better.”
Since playing as a reserve on the 2018 state title team Tellis has dreamed of a return trip to state.
After back-to-back regional final losses West High finally earned a return with its 69-54 regional final win over Davenport North.
After a challenging senior season it is a fitting ending for Tellis to close her career on the state’s biggest stage.
“Being back at the state tournament is definitely where I wanted to be again for my senior year,” Tellis said. “I’m just thankful that we made it back and I get to play there again. That’s a great feeling.”