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IOWA CITY — After a big push to open the final quarter, the clock couldn’t move fast enough for B.J. Mayer.
The wait was worth it. Iowa City West is back in the girls’ state basketball tournament.
The third-ranked Women of Troy went on a 10-0 run to start the fourth quarter and held on for a 60-54 win over No. 13 Southeast Polk in a Class 5A regional final Tuesday night.
West (20-3) will make its fifth appearance in the state tournament in the last seven years.
The Women of Troy fell two points shy of making it to Des Moines last season. They were determined to get back this year.
“It was incredible,” West guard Rachael Saunders said about grabbing the state qualifier banner. “We love it. We knew that we did it together. That was really important for us to get it this year after coming up short last year.”
West will play sixth-ranked Waukee (18-4) in the first round of the state tournament on Wednesday, March 1, at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines. Waukee beat the Women of Troy in a regional final last season.
Saunders scored 16 points, Logan Cook had 14 and Emma Koch added 10 points 14 rebounds to lead West against Southeast Polk.
“We’ve done it together all year long,” Mayer said. “We’ve had different kids step up. It’s all about our team. We have lots of weapons and on any given night, any of them can help us.”
Southeast Polk (14-9) missed its seventh consecutive state tournament appearance despite junior Shiloh McCool’s game-high 28 points.
It was a back-and-forth game that looked like it might go down to the wire. The score was tied or a one-point difference after the first, second and third quarters.
Then West tightened up its defense and pulled away.
The Women of Troy opened the fourth quarter on a 10-0 run over a four-minute stretch, turning a 37-all game into a 47-37 lead. West forced turnovers on four straight SEP possessions during the run — leading to quick and easy buckets on the other end.
The Rams cut the deficit to five with 2:30 left, but never got closer until the final seconds.
“We’re going to focus on making sure we get better,” Mayer said. “It will be new for some of them, but I like where we’re at. I think we can compete down there.”