MOVILLE, Iowa | Signs with the number 1,000 flashed on the visitor’s side of the Westwood High School gym Friday night.
Ellen Gallagher reached the career scoring milestone by hitting a pair of free throws with a minute left in the third quarter of Woodbury Central’s 74-31 Western Valley Conference girls basketball victory. Teammate Halle Still texted the 6-foot senior post the day before, telling her how many points she needed to become only the school’s second player to score 1,000 points in the five-player era.
Thirty-one was the magic number. She was taken out for the remainder of the game after receiving a standing ovation from Woodbury Central and Westwood fans.
“I’m not sure how signs were printed off, but we had a good crowd that night,” said the Sioux City Journal’s Siouxland Athlete of the Week, who’s currently averaging 25.2 points and 11.5 rebounds with eight double-doubles for a 9-2 club.
“It was a cool moment,’’ said Gallagher, whose team faces River Valley (2-9) tonight. “The Westwood announcer announced it. That was really nice. My teammates gave me a ball they all signed. It’s a big accomplishment. It took a lot of hard work, but it feels great. It’s something I’ll remember forever.”
It was only fitting that free throws helped the 17-year-old daughter of Tim and Jill Gallagher get there en route to her sixth 25-plus scoring game of the season.
A 59.3 percent shooter from the field, Gallagher shot 68.4 percent from the free throw line while averaging 11.7 points as a sophomore and 70.4 percent a year later while scoring at a 14.3 clip.
An 8 of 9 free throw effort in the Wildcats’ third straight win made Gallagher 82 of 92 this season for an excellent 89.1 percent.
“When you shoot 60 percent from the field and 90 percent from the line, you’re going to get a lot of points,” said first-year Woodbury Central Coach Matt Jenness. “Free throws were one thing she wanted to work on in the off-season. She was at every open gym. She’s a great role model for our young kids.”
Gallagher had a role model growing up who’s now in her first year as Woodbury Central’s assistant coach, Brittany Alfredson. As a fourth- and fifth-grader, Ellen was a water girl for the Wildcats, then coached by Bryan Alfredson, whose daughter graduated in 2008 with 1,511 points.
“I thought she worked really hard and was a great player,” said Gallagher. “She was a really good person in high school who I looked up to. Her dad told me things she went through in the transition from high school to (Morningside College).”
Gallagher made the transition from guard to post as her prep hoops career progressed. After all, she grew from a 5-7 freshman to a 5-11 sophomore.
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Gallagher learned all of the post moves. She is trying to perfect a hook shot. She has the desire it takes to rebound, with three games of 15 or more.
Practicing every day against a taller classmate, 6-2 post Heidi Ploen (8.6 ppg, 6.8 rpg), helps. So did playing against WVC centers like Lawton-Bronson’s Leah Miller, Katelyn Brockhaus and Josie Kopal.
“In middle school, I played point guard, so I’ve gained a lot of respect for post players,” said Gallagher. “You have to be very physical in the post. You have to make yourself physical in practice. Coach gets on me to be more physical. That helps. I credit my teammates who push the ball and get it to me inside. They’re awesome.”
Junior guard Kristin Hubert (13.5 ppg, 48 assists) aids the Wildcats offense that ranks third in Class 2A at 69.5 points a game. Gallagher is just as good as her teammates in transition.
“She runs the court very well for a post,” said Jenness, who coached the previous five seasons at River Valley.
“That’s where she gets a lot of her points. We play good defense. We run all the time. As a post, she found out she can get a lot of easy baskets in our transition game.”
Nick Sjuts, Bancroft-Rosalie…. The senior forward scored 38 points for the No. 6 (Class D2) Panthers in a 69-41 win over West Point-Beemer, putting him past 1,000 for his career.
Alex Yoerger, Hinton…. The senior guard averaged 18 points as the No. 5 (Class 2A) Blackhawks posted wins over state-ranked 1A teams, Newell-Fonda (1st) and Gehlen Catholic (13th).
NOTE: Nominations (from coaches only) can be made by contacting the Sioux City Journal’s sports department at 1-800-397-9820, extension 4206.