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Taylor and Johnson fight for Game Time championship

BY TAYLOR AXELSON | JULY 19, 2012 6:30 AM

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The Game Time League season is only five weeks long. In a season that short, the players have to believe they can win from the get-go.

And Theairra Taylor and Morgan Johnson did. They led their team to fight for a win every time up the court on Wednesday, trying shed the shared last-place status.

Their efforts paid off in the end with a 92-76 win. The league comes to an end within the next week, and the goal of winning the championship is becoming a reality.

"I was really proud of [the players] because the other team has been getting better and better. The girls stuck with the program today," head coach Randy Larson said. "They did so well in the zone. I've been trying to play all the girls equally, and I think it's paying off in the end. Our best players come in and they know they can make that shot. Confidence makes a big difference in a short season like this."

Taylor quickly took charge on her team and paid no heed to the infamous knee brace that reaches over a third of her leg. Injuries have played a large part in the team not taking over the league as some would have expected. Johnson and Taylor play three minutes on/three minutes off to avoid the overworking of their knee injuries.

"Our two best players are playing less then half the game. That makes a big difference when your two top players aren't playing half the time," Larson said. "I've been really happy with how hard they worked and trying to get over that rust. They're a little worried about getting hurt. I'm happy with how they just let the game happen and don't try and force it. They're conscious of how they should be playing and they both want to win."

Larson's team, Cullen Painting/Monica's and Bob's your Uncle, took over the first half and lead until the very end of it. But Pelling/Culver's closed the gap right before the break. Pelling was up by 1 at halftime.

"It was a really close game until half time. Coming out we didn't really know how to handle their zone at first — we did a much better job in the second half," Johnson said. "Our overall perseverance helped us get through it."

The system was simple enough during the second half. Taylor got the ball down the court, and Johnson got it through the hoop. Taylor hit a 3 with 3:30 left on the clock to push her team ahead, 81-67.

"I'm excited for the championship coming up. There is no clear-cut winner," Taylor said. "It all starts on defense. No matter what game it is, as long as we get defensive stops, our shots will fall."

The team chemistry is still a challenge as the players surrounding Johnson and Taylor get use to their spotted minutes as a result of their injuries.

"Playing two games in one week is hard on my knee," Johnson said. "Overall, it has been doing a lot better, just some minor setbacks. It will definitely hold up during the year. In general, part of basketball is playing through pain."

Taylor and Johnson are both strong forces on Iowa. Johnson holds the record for most blocks as a freshman, sophomore, and junior. Taylor has the ability to score and has no problem being physical under the basket, despite her guard status.

"It's going to be a phenomenal year," Johnson said. "We have some great players coming in. I have a really good feeling about this season."


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