By Chris Umscheid
North Liberty Leader
CEDAR RAPIDS– It was a good night to be a West High Trojan, especially if your name was Nick Gallagher. The senior was second in scoring with 19 points and second only to teammate Wyatt Lohaus (22 points) as the Trojans ran over rival City High 74-50 Tuesday, March 4, in a substate final at Cedar Rapids Prairie.
“He (Gallagher) probably wasn’t at the top of their scouting sheet,” West coach Steve Bergman said with a laugh after the game.
The win, the team’s third this season over the Little Hawks, sent the Trojans back to the state basketball tournament in Des Moines to defend their two-years in a row state championship title. The trip to Wells Fargo Arena will also be the fourth consecutive state tourney appearance, a fact not lost on Bergman or Lohaus, who will be making his fourth state trip. “I got a little emotional, bringing that up,” Bergman said of his post-game talk with the team. “I get to coach him (Lohaus) for another game for sure, and I hope three.”
The Little Hawks came out swinging in a back-and-forth battle with the Trojans in the first period, answering a pair of Gallagher free throws with a pair of 3-point shots. As has been the case throughout the season, Bergman employed a balanced attack as men from up and down the roster poured in the shots. Chike Ukah, Lohaus and Adam Klein combined for a 19-16 lead at the end of the period.
West High pounded the ball in the second period with Ukah, Lohaus, Gallagher and Devontae Lane building a 36-26 halftime lead. In the third quarter, Gallagher made it 38-26 and followed the field goal with a 3-point shot. Ukah entertained the West crowd with a slam-dunk while David DiLeo sank a pair of free throws and a 3-pointer to make it 50-36, prompting City coach Don Showalter to take a time-out. The Trojans took a 58-36 lead into the final period.
With just over two minutes left in the game, Gallagher and Lohaus came off the floor to applause. Up 71-48, Lane and Tanner Lohaus also took to the bench, as Bergman again made sure his reserves saw playing time. Harley Shear, Marquise Yarbrough, Nick Spiess, Malik Williams and Wali Parks closed out the contest with a 3-pointer from Williams.
For West, the win improved the record to 20-3 while City retired at 11-12. For Gallagher, who’d been averaging around five points per game, it was a career-best effort with 5-6 field goals hitting their mark, a 3-pointer, and nailing 8-9 shots at the charity stripe.
The Trojans entered the state tourney as the No. 4 seed and were to face No. 5 Southeast Polk Wednesday, March 12, in a 1:05 p.m. quarterfinal round game. The 4A semifinal game is set for Friday, March 14, at 1:30 p.m. with the championship on Saturday, March 15, at 8:05 p.m.