DES MOINES — It may be Linn-Mar’s decade, but this is Iowa City West’s year. At least it will be if the Trojans can win one more game.
A prodigious fourth-quarter output and incredible second-half shooting allowed West to beat back its Mississippi Valley Conference rival, 71-51, in a Class 4A state tournament semifinal Friday afternoon at Wells Fargo Arena. You can call it atonement for a loss to the Lions in this game last season.
“I think it just came down to who wanted it more in the second half,” said West’s Dondre Alexander. “We didn’t want to end our season the same way we ended it last year. To the same team. So we wanted to come out and play harder, play stronger and play smarter. We did.”
Just a mere 31 points in the final eight minutes for West (25-0), which finally separated itself in a game that had just a two-point spread after three quarters. Alexander and fellow guard Wyatt Lohaus did most of the damage, combining for 20 of those 31.
Alexander finished with a game-high 27 points, 24 in the second half. The Trojans made 20 of their 25 second-half shots, 80-percent shooting to you and me.
“We were taking the same shots we were in the first half. We just made them in the second half,” Alexander said. “That was the difference. That’s about it.”
“Once they got it going, they saw the end in sight, and they went after it,” said Linn-Mar Coach Chris Robertson. “The better team won. You’ve got to tip your hat to them. I wish them the best. I’d like to see our league win another state title.”
Repeat the shooting performance, and West will have no problem with Sioux City East (21-3) in Saturday night’s 8:05 championship game. Trojans Coach Steve Bergman knows better than that, though, especially considering his club hasn’t faced a kid like 7-foot-1 Adam Woodbury of East.
West loves to man you up defensively, but it won’t be able to do that against the future Iowa Hawkeye. This is an interesting matchup.
“I’ve never seen Sioux City East play before today,” Bergman said. “We’ve got a few tapes from this tournament, and I’ll sit down and watch them. It’s a tall order, no pun intended. We don’t play people like him. Our defense, to this point, has not been built to deal with somebody like him. It’ll be tough.”
Ending his prep career in Saturday afternoon’s consolation game was not what Linn-Mar guard Marcus Paige wanted. The North Carolina signee had 24 points but went just 1 for 9 from 3-point land and was outshined by Alexander, who guarded him most of the day.
Paige needs 13 points against Ankeny today to surpass former Linn-Mar guard Jason Bohannon as the Metro’s all-time leading career scorer. Linn-Mar (20-5) lost to West in the regular season as well.
“We had them where we wanted them,” Paige said. “They came out (in the fourth) with a lot of fire. We had some defensive lapses early, and I think that really got them going from there. This is an experienced group. Last year, they weren’t as experienced when we were down here together. They’re back this year, and they’re ready to go. They took full advantage of their opportunities.”
Here is a short video interview with Paige and a copy of the game boxscore and play by play: