Your Prep Sports
DES MOINES – Trailing the defending state champion by 16 points late in the first half all BJ Mayer wanted was for his team to have a chance.
A chance to find a way.
“That’s what we’ve always asked down at state is give yourself a chance,” Mayer said. “Give yourself a chance and find a way.”
West High gave itself a chance against second-ranked Johnston on Thursday but couldn’t quite find a way to return to the Class 5A title game.
Sixth-ranked West High (14-4) trimmed a 16-point second-quarter deficit to two with two minutes to play but couldn’t complete the comeback falling to Johnston 52-47 in a 5A semifinal at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
“We got down too soon,” Mayer said. “I thought we were pretty tight early in the game and a couple of shots didn’t go down early and then we got down 14 or so and tried to make some adjustments but Johnston is a really good team for a reason.”
Johnston (18-1) used a 21-5 lead from the end of the first to the middle of the second quarter to build a 16-point lead and needed every point of it to hold off West High.
Junior Jada Gyamfi, an Iowa recruit, had 11 points and 18 rebounds and freshman Aaliyah Riley went 6-fot-6 at the free throw line in the final three minutes as Johnston returned to the 5A title game for the second consecutive season.
Johnston will face top-ranked Waukee (12-1) for the third time this season in a rematch of last year’s 5A title game on Friday at 7 p.m.
“I think defense was the most important thing, not letting them get second chance points was really important,” Gyamfi said. “I’m never too concerned about points I know as a team we can score and individually I can score it’s just locking in on defense knowing who to stop.”
Three days after erasing an eight-point second-half deficit in a 65-63 win over third-ranked Waterloo West in the quarterfinals West High nearly pulled off another come-from-behind upset.
West High cut the lead to 42-39 on a conventional 3-point play by Koch with 3:13 left.
Koch had nine of her game-high 16 points in the fourth quarter and pulled West High to within two at 45-43 with a pair of free throws with 2:07 left.
“I think we knew it was a game of runs and obviously Johnston is a fantastic team,” West High senior Audrey Koch said. “We were trying to have that mentality to never give up and cut the gap to as small as we possibly could and fight to the last minute.”
Senior Matayia Tellis stole the inbounds pass following the free throw by Koch and West High had the ball down by two with under two minutes to play.
The Trojans had their chance.
“It just showed that we aren’t going to give up even if we are down by a lot,” Tellis said. “We did the same thing against Waterloo and we got the win there but unfortunately we couldn’t pull out a win today.”
West High just couldn’t get over the hump.
Gyamfi rebounded an Emma Ingersoll-Weng miss and hit Aili Tanke with a deep outlet pass for a layup to put Johnston up 47-43.
Following another West High miss Riley hit two free throws with 1:17 left to stretch the lead to 49-43.
“We got it to two and we had the ball and had a chance to tie or take the lead and it was almost like the wind went out of our sails when we didn’t get that basket to go,” Mayer said. “Then we had to start fouling and they are a very good free throw shooting team.”
After scoring two points in the quarterfinal win over Waterloo West Koch had 16 points on 4-of-5 shooting.
Tellis finished with 10 points, three assists and two assists as West High shot 35 percent from the field.
“Our coaches always want us to stay confident whether its missing a few shots and shooting the next one or being down by a decent amount and never giving up,” Koch said. “They are a great team.”
West High 11 10 11 15 – 47
Johnston 18 11 10 13 – 52
West High (47) – Matayia Tellis 4-12 1-1 10, Emma Ingersoll-Weng 3-13 0-0 6, Meena Tate 2-6 0-0 4, Audrey Koch 4-5 8-9 16, Anna Prouty 2-3 0-0 5, Lucy Wolf 1-4 2-2 4, Liv Williams 1-2 0-0 2, Jenna Saunders 0-1 0-1 0, Malae’ Lacy 0-3 0-0 0, Totals 17-49 11-13 47.
Johnston (52) – Zoey Buchan 3-7 1-2 9, Kinsey Jilek 0-0 2-2 2, Anna Gossling 2-6 1-2 5, Aili Tanke 4-6 0-0 9, Jada Gyamfi 4-15 3-5 11, Aaliyah Riley 2-4 6-6 10, Molly Noelck 2-6 0-0 6, Emma Hampton 0-1 0-0 0, Totals 17-45 13-17 52.
3-point field goals – ICW 2-15 (Tellis 1-3, Ingersoll-Weng 0-6, Tate 0-1, Prouty 1-1, Wolf 0-1, Saunders 0-1, Lacy 0-2), JON 5-14 (Buchan 2-3, Gossling 0-3, Tanke 1-1, Gyamfi 0-2, Riley 0-1, Noelck 2-4). Rebounds – ICW 26 (Ingersoll-Weng, Prouty 6), JON 37 (Gyamfi 18). Assists – ICW 3 (Tellis 2), JON 9 (Gossling, Gyamfi 3). Turnovers – ICW 7, JON 13. Total fouls – ICW 15, JON 13. Fouled out – None. Technical fouls – None.