DES MOINES — The comment was this: “It’s classic David-vs.-Goliath.”
The comment was this: Classic Bill McTaggart.
For the first time, Iowa City High and Iowa City West are simultaneous girls’ state basketball qualifiers. And, wouldn’t you know it, they’ll square off in a Class 4A quarterfinal at 10 a.m. Wednesday at Wells Fargo Arena.
And though second-ranked West (22-1) has delivered a pair of regular-season defeats to No. 7 City High (17-6), West Coach B.J. Mayer isn’t buying the Biblical reference of his counterpart.
“(McTaggart) tries to get you to believe they have no chance. Then they’ll sneak up on you,” Mayer said.
“Maybe (City High is) Goliath. They’re so big. They’ll give us trouble because of their size.”
The Iowa City schools have fought for state supremacy in numerous sports for many years. You’ve got the Battle of the Boot. They’ve finished 1-2 in girls’ cross country and track several times.
Three months ago, they waged an epic, emotional volleyball battle in the state finals at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena, won by West in five games.
Talk to the players in Wednesday’s game, though, and you don’t hear hatred.
“I know quite a few of (the Little Hawks),” said West all-stater Ally Disterhoft. “I play summer ball with Mickey Hansche. She’s my buddy.”
In girls’ basketball, Iowa City has traditionally been City’s city. Mayer said this season was the first time West had swept the Little Hawks “in a long time, if ever.”
City High is making its sixth trip to state under McTaggart. The Little Hawks won the championship in 2008, when Virginia Johnson made a layup at the buzzer to beat Cedar Rapids Washington.
The Women of Troy finally broke through last year for their first appearance. They made it to the championship game, then fell to a Des Moines East team that displayed four Division-I players.
West returns to Wells Fargo with an experienced, fast lineup that averages 73.7 points per game. Disterhoft scores at a 16.9-point clip. University of Illinois signee Mckenzie Piper adds 13.3 points per contest.
In the regular season, the Women of Troy earned wins over City High by scores of 72-64 and 64-49.
“They always seem to go on a run against us,” said City center Sierra Chambers, who lifted the Little Hawks past Washington in the regional final with 22 points and 16 rebounds. “It gets us every time. We’ve got to get back on defense.”
The Little Hawks will counter speed with size. Chambers is 6-foot-2. So is sophomore Haley Lorenzen.
“Their size will give us trouble,” Mayer said. “We’ve had some success dealing with their size, packing it in.”
Hansche (15.5 ppg) gives the Little Hawks a perimeter threat.
West should come into the game at full attention. The Women of Troy trailed Muscatine by seven points late in the third quarter before rallying for a 60-53 win in the regional final. It was a rare down-to-the-wire game in a season full of easy wins.
“When we had a close game (at Davenport Assumption in the regular season), we didn’t handle it well,” Mayer said. “We were back in that situation against Muscatine, and we handled it much better.”
According to the BC Moore computer rankings, West is a 14-point favorite to beat City High for the third time this season.
“It’s classic David-vs.-Goliath,” McTaggart said. “They’ve lost one game. They’ve beaten us twice. They should be healthy favorites.”
On the other hand …
“We haven’t put together a complete game yet. At moments, we look pretty decent,” he said. “If we put a complete game together, we might have a chance.”
Chambers said, “We’ll leave our hearts on the court.”
Both teams will.
“We’ve got to take it all game by game. If we play like we’re capable, we’ve got a chance to do great things,” Disterhoft said. “Ever since we lost last year, we know we don’t want to feel that way again.”