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May, White victorious in Prime Time Championship

BY TOM GOLDHAMMER | JULY 25, 2012 6:30 AM

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Culver’s, led by Iowa’s Aaron White, Anthony Clemmons, and Eric May, never won a Prime Time game during the regular season.

But head coach Ron Nove’s team took home the championship title on Tuesday, defeating Jill Armstrong, 115-102, in North Liberty.

Hawkeye junior forward Melsahn Basabe played an integral part for head coach Dan Ahrens’ squad, opening up the game on a 16-9 run. Basabe established a presence inside on both sides of the court early and often. He threw shots away, cleaned up the boards, and converted two botched alley-oop passes — one from him and one from ex-Hawkeye Jarryd Cole.

The first half was rapidly paced, with each team wasting little time in generating efficient offense early in the shot clock. Incoming Hawkeye freshman Mike Gesell — the Prime Time League’s assist leader at slightly over 8 per game — showed a clear understanding for controlling the tempo of an offense.

Keith Steffeck, a versatile senior center from William Penn, was a spark plug for Nove’s team wherever he lined up on the floor. He connected on four 3-pointers in the first half and coupled his hot shooting with natural length on the defensive end. Steffeck’s intensity provided some of the only interior resistance to the Hawkeye front court of Cole and Basabe.

Steffeck’s final 3-point shot of the first half came with time expiring, and cut the halftime deficit to 1, 54-53.

Steffeck, an experienced Prime Time competitor, said the competition in Prime Time is tougher than his college play at William Penn.

“As far as I’m concerned, this is the best competition in the state,” he said. “Coming from a small school, this gives me the opportunity to play against the best and become better myself playing with them."

The second half opened with both teams playing sloppy with the basketball. The sluggish start had a majority of the early points coming as a result of turnovers and a lack of transition defense.

Once the game opened up a little bit, the proficient scoring for both squads returned.

Iowa freshman-to-be Clemmons provided 9 points in a little over minute, extending Nove’s squad’s lead to 10 at around the 12-minute mark. Clemmons looked for his shot much more frequently in the second half and finished the period with 27 points.

Clemmons is preparing himself for a brutal Big Ten schedule, and he feels that the Prime Time League provides a great opportunity to build chemistry.

“It helps me feel comfortable with how [Eric] May and [Kyle] Meyer want to play,” Clemmons said. “Plus playing against the type of guys like Mel [Basabe] and Mike Gesell will get me ready for what I’ll see throughout the season.”

A gritty defensive stretch by Armstrong, aided by the quick hands of guard Michael Aldemann, helped chip away at the double-digit deficit.

However, the consistent pressure that Clemmons and company put on the defense helped Nove’s bunch maintain a firm grasp on the lead in the game’s closing minutes.

A putback by Cole on a Basabe missed free throw brought his team within 5, only to be answered by a Clemmons bucket and a monstrous dunk in transition by May.

The dunk brought an ovation from the crowd and a time-out had to be taken by Ahrens in an effort to keep his group’s composure together.

Seconds after the time-out, a drive and kick by May to former Wayne State guard Dallas Hodges led to a wide open 3-pointer that essentially put the dagger into Jill Armstrong’s chances.

In the loss, Gesell racked up 24 points and 9 assists. The point guard found the open man whenever the opportunity presented itself, and showed time and time again that he was the engine that drove the machine for Ahren’s offense.

“Just getting to compete in a game-like setting with all the guys and continuing to build that chemistry,” he said. “It was fun getting out to play in a summer league like this. I had no idea this many fans would show up, and it just shows how great our fanbase is going to be.”

Prime Time League Awards

League MVP — Aaron White
Chris Street Award — Jarryd Cole and Mike Gesell


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