Doolittle, Stokes battle in the post

BY RYAN YOUNG | JULY 02, 2013 5:00 AM

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The low-post battle between Iowa’s Bethany Doolittle and Connecticut’s Kiah Stokes served as the main attraction for last night’s early Game Time League matchup.

Stokes, along with Iowa’s Theairra Taylor and Kayla Timmerman, ultimately came out on top, 85-81, after trailing by 5 points at the half. Stokes scored the last 4 points of the game to secure the win for her team.

But it wasn’t all gravy. Stokes struggled mightily in the first half, primarily because of her opposite in the post. Doolittle, who recorded 8 points in the first 20 minutes, did all she could to shut down Stokes, holding her to a measly 6 points.

“She got me in the first half; I was pretty mad about that,” Stokes said. “She’s a great player and incredibly long. It was a fun matchup.”

Doolittle grabbed 14 points and 7 boards in total during last night’s Game Time League contest, and she came up with some big-time plays to bring her team back from an early 8-point deficit.

“It was definitely a tough matchup. Kiah’s a really good player,” Doolittle said. “It’s really cool that in this league you get to matchup with a player of her caliber and just see what you can do.”

The Oakdale, Minn., native made the transition from center — the only position she had previously played before the 2012-13 season — to forward. But Doolittle, who also serves as the primary big player for her summer-league team, had to channel some of the post game in order to compete with Stokes on Monday night.

“It’s been fun getting back into the post again,” she said. “I think it’s just that physical mentality and getting stronger down there that is going to make the biggest difference for me.”

Doolittle’s team switched to a zone midway through the second half — something the coach thought would help slow Stokes and her team down. But Taylor and Timmerman stepped up and made big shots, keeping their team in the game as Doolittle’s team thrived on small runs.

Specifically, it was Taylor’s ability to sink treys and 18-foot jumpers that allowed Stokes to become more of a force in the paint. In response, Doolittle tried varying types of defensive tactics — ranging from muscling against Stokes to strategically stripping the ball in some cases.

Their defensive play was perhaps the most entertaining part to watch in last night’s matchup.

“That was a great matchup; they really battled down there,” Taylor said. “Beth defended her well, and Kiah did the same. They didn’t give up anything easy.”

Stokes, disappointed in her first-half performance, turned her game around for the final 20 minutes. She posted 13 more points in the second half  and finished with 19 boards. She even came up with some key blocks at the end of the game, preserving the lead for her team.

“I mean, who wants to lose? We really didn’t want this game to slip away from us, and I think that really showed in the second half,” Stokes said.

Doolittle’s offensive moves opened the eyes of some of her Iowa teammates. Stokes is known well for blocking, and Doolittle did her best to get the ball to the rim anyway she could.

“Even though she isn’t as large in the post, she took some nice drives to the basket and made some key shots.” Taylor said. “She is really expanding her game.”

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