Your Prep Sports
DES MOINES – West High coach BJ Mayer seems to have found the secret to state tournament success.
Except the magic formula that Mayer has used to go 6-1 in state tournament openers isn’t a secret and its more powerful than magic – its belief.
“Our kids believe,” Mayer said. They believe in each other and they play for each other and if you do that good things can happen. It’s very powerful.”
Buoyed by that belief and a big game from its backcourt sixth-ranked West High is headed back to the Class 5A semifinals after pulling out another state tournament thriller on Monday.
Sophomore Meena Tate led three West High players in double figures with 21 as the Trojans upset third-ranked Waterloo West 65-63 in a 5A quarterfinal at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
The win was the 12th straight for West High (14-3) which will face second-ranked Johnson (17-1) in the 5A semifinals on Thursday and the third consecutive state tournament-opening win for the Trojans since 2015.
West High has now reached the state semifinals in six of its seven appearances at the state tournament.
“I’m a firm believer in this and I’ve been this way a long time that teams beat individuals,” Mayer said. “They have a lot of really good players but we’ve had a lot of success by a Meena Tate coming in and scoring 21 in a big game because she trusts the system, she trusts what we do and we trust here and I think that’s a huge thing for us.”
Junior Emma Ingersoll-Weng had 17 points, including the go-ahead 3-pointer with 46 seconds left and senior Matayia Tellis had 12 points as West High advanced despite a season-low two points from leading scorer Audrey Koch.
“I think it shows that we have a really deep bench,” Tate said. “We had players come off the bench and play well. If Audrey isn’t play well, which usually does not happen because she is amazing, this shows that we can pick it up and we can all do something to help.”
Waterloo West (19-2) seemed to seize control of a back-and-forth game that was tied at 27 at the half several times in the third quarter.
The Wahawks led by eight with 21 seconds left in the quarter before a Tate bucket with four seconds left cut into the lead and gave West High momentum.
Tate entered the game averaging 8.2 points per game had 16 of her team-high 21 points in the first half on 7-of-7 shooting and finished 9-of-11 from the floor.
“I was really dialed in,” Tate said. “I think I was just really in the zone. I didn’t get bother by the crowd, by the other team, by the refs I was just focused and that’s when I play my best.”
With Koch uncharacteristically quiet offensively West High got big-time contributions from everyone else while erasing a six-point deficit in the third quarter.
Anna Prouty scored seven of her nine points during a 9-2 West High run to open the fourth quarter.
Prouty hit a 3-poitner to cut the lead to three and gave West High a 46-45 lead with two free throws with 5:34 left.
“All year we have kind of talked to Anna about being a ball screener and rebounder and said, ‘I don’t think they are going to guard you so you need to step out and make a 3 and she did’,” Mayer said. “She gave us great minutes and I’m just happy to be moving on.”
Down the stretch it was the West High backcourt that came up big.
Tate, Tellis and Ingersoll-Weng combined to score the final 19 West High points.
Ingersoll-Weng had two of her five 3-pointers in the final 4:25, none bigger than her triple from the wing with 46 seconds left that gave West High the lead for good.
“I just think when we get here everyone steps up,” Tellis said. “We don’t have a star player but all of us can step up and that’s what we did tonight.”
After Ingersoll-Weng put West High up 62-60 with her 3-pointer Tellis had a steal and layup on the ensuing Waterloo West possession to push the lead to 64-60 with 22 seconds left.
“Mayer was just telling us to go out there and have fun and we took that to heart,” Tellis said. “All of us stepped up in the last couple of seconds and it led to a win for us.”
Waterloo West cut the lead to 64-63 on three free throws from Halli Poock with 12.5 seconds left and had a chance to tie in the final seconds but a pull-up jumper from Poock was off the mark as time expired.
“We all knew the ball was going in Halli’s hand and we just we sort of stepped back and let her go,” Tellis said. “I was able to grab it at the final buzzer.”
Poock had a game-high 22 to lead Waterloo West while Sahara Williams had 18 points and Gabby Moore had 13.
Koch had two points but had four rebounds and four assists for West High which shot 48 percent for the game.
“That says a lot our team that even though Audrey didn’t have her best game that everyone else can step up,” Tellis said. “I felt Audrey did a lot of great things beside scoring and everyone else stepped up.”
Waterloo West 11 16 16 20 – 63
West High 12 15 10 28 – 65
Waterloo West (63) – Halli Poock 7-20 7-7 22, Gabby Moore 5-7 0-1 13, Sahara Williams 7-10 3-4 18, Sierra Moore 1-3 0-0 3, Brooklyn Smith 2-3 3-4 7, Jaide Domatob 0-0 0-0 0, Sierra Burt 0-0 0-0 0, Totals 22-43 13-16 63.
West High (65) – Matayia Tellis 5-10 1-2 12, Emma Ingersoll-Weng 5-11 2-4 17, Meena Tate 9-11 1-2 21, Audrey Koch 0-5 2-2 2, Anna Prouty 3-4 2-2 9, Lucy Wolf 0-4 2-2 2, Liv Williams 0-0 0-0 0, Jenna Saunders 0-0 0-0 0, Malae’ Lacy 1-3 0-0 2, Totals 23-48 10-14 65.
3-point field goals – ICW 9-23 (Tellis 1-4, Ingersoll-Weng 5-10, Tate 2-2, Koch 0-2, Prouty 1-1, Wolf 0-2, Lacy 0-2), WW 6-19 (Poock 1-8, G. Moore 3-5, Williams 1-3, S. Moore 1-3). Rebounds – ICW 29 (Prouty 6), WW 19 (Smith 8). Assists – ICW 10 (Koch 4), WW 12 (G. Moore 5). Turnovers – ICW 17, WW 17. Total fouls – ICW 14, WW 17. Fouled out – None. Technical fouls – None.