Prime Time primed for championship

BY SEAN MORGAN | JULY 27, 2009 7:15 AM

The Prime Time League has been dominated by Iowa basketball players’ performances, as the largest program-participant had a definite presence on the court.

But tonight’s matchup will be unique.

Matt Gatens will walk into the Prime Time championship game as the lone Hawkeye in the bunch when he leads his second-ranked Jill Armstrong of Lepic-Kroeger Realtors against the league’s top team, Culver’s of Coralville. Iowa teammate Andrew Brommer will remain on the bench for Culver’s with a badly sprained ankle.

Because of the teams’ fluidity and precision on the court, league director Randy Larson thinks the game is a must-see for local sports fans.

The dangerous tandem of Adam Koch and Ali Farokhmanesh of Northern Iowa will be the roadblock in Gatens’ path to a back-to-back Prime Time championship. Perhaps a mountain might be a better analogy — both Panther stars scoring more than 20 points a game while shooting more than 60 percent from the field and more than 80 percent from the charity stripe.

Though mindful that Culver’s could win the championship without an Hawkeye player’s name on the scorecard, Farokhmanesh says a perceived Northern Iowa-Iowa rivalry is the last thing on his mind.

“A lot of emphasis gets put on that,” said Farokhmanesh, who grew up in Iowa City playing for West High, then transferred to Northern Iowa from Kirkwood Community College. “We have players from a lot of different schools who have helped us get here.”

Gatens, who has averaged nearly 22 points per game and finished second overall in assists per game with 7.6, will need Northern Iowa 3-point threat Matt Schneiderman to help him overcome Koch and Farokhmanesh. Schneiderman has scored a league-high 26.6 points per game while managing to finish in the top five in assists with 5.4 per game. He shot 56 percent from beyond the arc, putting him second in the league. Former Upper Iowa standout Nick Kramer, averaging 20 points and 9.6 rebounds per game, will also be a factor.

Though many Iowa fans may be shocked to see so few players representing the Black and Gold in the championship, Larson isn’t surprised to see so many Northern Iowa products suiting up for tonight’s contest.

“Time and time again, [Northern Iowa] has proven to be every bit as good as Iowa’s program,” said Larson, who filled in for coach Ron Nove, who was out of town, in Culver’s 101-93 semifinal win over Imprinted Sportswear/Goodfellow Printing. “These kids always know the right way to play the game. Free-throw shooting, making that extra pass. They play [basketball] the right way and have done so for some time now.”

The championship game will begin at the North Liberty Community Center at 6 p.m. in the second gym.

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