Tucker leads way in Prime Time thriller

BY J.T. BUGOS | JULY 16, 2009 7:15 AM

An overtime thriller resulted in a 97-93 win for Vinton Merchants over Mike Gatens Real Estate/McCurry’s.

Gatens/McCurry’s led for most of the first half, building a 12-point lead 10 minutes into the game. It looked as though it might run away with the game, but Vinton came storming back. A 12-point deficit became a five-point lead by halftime, a 17-point swing in just 10 minutes of play.

The second half started just the opposite of the first, as Vinton began expanding its lead. With seven minutes left in the game, the squad had a 12-point lead and was cruising.

Gatens/McCurry’s rallied, however. By the time the clock had wound down to two minutes, Gatens/McCurry’s had made it a game.

The last two minutes saw plenty of excitement and had the crowd on the edge of its seats. With 18 seconds left and the game knotted at 82-82, Vinton Merchants had possession. But former Hawkeye Darryl Moore couldn’t capitalize in the paint with five seconds to go, and the teams battled for the rebound until time ran out.

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The two teams traded baskets in overtime until Iowa’s Anthony Tucker decided he wasn’t going to let his team lose. With a flurry of floaters and bank shots in the lane, along with deadly 3-point shooting, he took over the game.

The dagger came with 18 seconds left, when he nailed a 3-pointer to give Vinton a two-point lead. Gatens/McCurry’s couldn’t put the ball in the hoop at the other end, and it was forced to foul with eight seconds left.

Unfortunately for Gatens/McCurry’s, Tucker was at the foul line. The Hawkeye sophomore calmly sunk two free throws to put the game out of reach.

He finished the game one rebound and one assist short of a triple-double. He also went off for a game-high 36 points.

“Tucker made some tough shots, inside and out, and what’s impressive is that they knew what he was going to do,” Moore said. “And at the same time, he has the ability to find the open man. I was very impressed with him.”

For Tucker, his domination in overtime was nothing to get too excited about. He recognized his team was scrambling to score, so he stepped up.

“We were struggling at the end of regulation to get good shots,” he said. “We had some turnovers and took some bad shots, so I wanted to make sure we got the best shot we could.”

Tucker wasn’t the only one to put on a show — Moore also demonstrated quick hands and a great leaping ability. He finished with 24 points, and at one point in the first half, he undressed Hawkeye freshman Eric May at half-court and took the ball in for a high-flying dunk. Moore also had some acrobatic finishes at the rim that, he said, he works on in the driveway with his son.

“It feels good to be out here and be able to still compete,” he said. “I don’t get to play as much, I just go out there and let the games come to me.”

Even though May was victimized by Moore, he played a great game, ending with a double-double of 14 points and 13 assists. The 6-5 guard fell just one rebound short of a triple-double, and the highlight of his game was a vicious fast-break dunk.

“I ran the court and got a great pass,” he said. “It got the crowd into it, got us going a little bit, and sparked us to tie up the game.”

Brennan Cougill also suited up for Vinton, and while his shot wasn’t falling, the incoming Iowa freshman cleaned the glass. He finished with a game-high 14 rebounds and contributed nine points.

The 6-9 forward was denied twice at the rim in the first half but opened up the second half scoring with a dunk in traffic that left defenders helplessly swatting at the ball.

Next week, both Vinton and Gatens/McCurry’s will enter the playoffs.

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