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DES MOINES – There will be no strangers in the Class 5A title game on Friday night.
Despite all the joking on Twitter there won’t be a venue change either.
City High and West High will take their cross-town rivalry 100 miles or so west to Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines for the first all Iowa City state title game in history.
Top-ranked City High (25-0) and ninth-ranked West High (18-7) will meet for the third time this season in the 5A finale on Friday at 6 p.m.
“There isn’t a lot of mystery,” West High coach BJ Mayer said. “They know us, we know them so it boils down to execution.”
City High owns a pair of regular season wins over West High including a 79-70 win last month in the most recent meeting between the two long-time rivals.
After watching his team hold off West High on January 23rd City High coach Bill McTaggart quickly pointed out there was a potential for a third matchup at state.
When West High dropped to ninth in the 5A rankings following a four-game January losing skid it appeared a rematch would occur in the quarterfinals.
Instead the third meeting of the season comes with the highest stakes ever in the history of the series.
“It’s a cross-town rivalry so it’s exciting and being in the state championship game just adds to that,” City High sophomore Aubrey Joens said. “There is a lot of hype around it so it’s fun but we just have to play our game.”
City High has won five of the last six meetings in the series but West High holds the upper hand in the postseason meetings in recent history.
West High has won the last two postseason meetings between the two rivals and won the only other state tournament meeting with City High 55-52 in the 2012 quarterfinals.
The Women of Troy went on to win the state title in 2012, marking the last time a team from outside the CIML won the big school crown.
That will change on Friday as the Mississippi Valley Conference is guaranteed its first champion since that West High title in 2012.
“It’s a battle, we are happy to have it be two teams from Iowa City because we don’t get as much recognition all the time as the CIMLs,” West High senior Rachael Saunders said. “It’s going to be a battle.”
Both teams had to battle just to set up their historic all Iowa City final.
West High rallied from a 12-point fourth quarter deficit to down third-ranked West Des Moines Dowling in overtime in its opener before knocking off No. 10 Indianola on Thursday.
City High roared past West Des Moines Valley in its opener but had to scratch its way past fourth-ranked Johnston 58-52 in the semifinals on Thursday.
No. 1 City High is making its first title game appearance since winning the 2008 title and has a chance to become the first unbeaten large school champion since Des Moines East in 2011.
“We are going to come out ready to go and play like they are undefeated and we are undefeated,” City High senior Ashley Joens said. “It’s a whole new game so we have to come out ready to go.”
The state’s leading scorer at 30.9 points per game, Joens was actually held below her season average in scoring and rebounding two meetings with West High this season.
The 6-foot senior averaged 28 points and 11.5 in two meetings with the women of Troy.
Joens is averaging 30 points and 9.5 rebounds in two state tournament wins and has gotten help. Primarily from sister Aubrey Joens who had 20 against West Des Moines Valley and sophomore point guard Rose Nkumu who is averaging 11 points, 3.5 assists and four rebounds at state.
“We are going to have to really control the Joens,” West High junior point guard Lauren Zacharias said. “Now that Rose is shooting more we are going to have to focus on here as well.”
No. 9 West High needed three consecutive wins over top-10 teams to reach the title game and enters riding a seven-game winning streak.
“I really like the fact that we are probably the significant underdog,” West High coach BJ Mayer said. “You are talking 25-0 against a seven-loss team and I think that will allow us to relax because not many people probably think that we are going to win and hopefully we will come out and have a chance at the end.