Defense wins Prime Time Championship


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Sunday night’s Prime Time contest wasn’t an ordinary summer league game. The intensity in Roberts Gym was palpable during the championship showdown between Anthony Clemmons’ and Devyn Marble’s teams at the North Liberty Community Center.

Iowa’s star guards engaged in a heated battle with Clemmons’s side coming out on top, 96-78, thanks to outstanding team defense and key contributions from Iowa City native Dondre Alexander.

The game resembled a Big Ten struggle in the early goings — the pace of play was slow and open shots were scarce as each team played tenacious defense. The pace soon picked up after the opening five minutes of action – where both teams combined for 14 points — as Alexander and Clemmons relied on their team defense to spark a 19-7 run.

“We knew from the beginning that we had to win the game with defense,” Clemmons’ coach Randy Larson said. “I think the better you guard, the more you get open-court opportunities, and those were the key in that stretch.”  

Alexander and Clemmons flourished on the fast break, combining for 23 of their team’s 51 first-half points. Larson’s squad led 51-36 at halftime. Clemmon’s shot wasn’t falling early on (3-of-9 field goals in the opening 20 minutes), but he found other ways to contribute.

“I was just not forcing things,” he said. “Our whole team knocked down shots, and I think I did a good job by keeping everyone involved.”

Marble’s squad trailed by at least 11 points during the second half. Larson’s team didn’t relinquish its first-half lead — it never trailed at any point in the contest — en route to claiming this year’s Prime Time title. Its defense held coach Kevin Sanders’ team to 78 points, 17.5 points below their summer league average.

“That’s every team’s philosophy if you’re a winning program,” Clemmons said about his team’s defensive prowess. “If you play good defense, you’re going to win. Team defense wins games and also wins championships.”

Great team defense fueled Clemmons’ and Alexander’s offensive outburst, too. The duo had to carry the scoring load last night because teammate Jarrod Uthoff is traveling with the East Coast All-Stars to compete in the Four Nations Cup in Tallinn, Estonia.

Alexander and Clemmons combined for 61 or their team’s 96 points; Clemmons had 32 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 assists, and Alexander finished with 29 points and 14 rebounds.

“[Uthoff] was obviously one of the leading rebounders, so I wanted to rebound and get to the free-throw line more,” Alexander said. “He was huge scorer, too, so I felt like I had to score a few extra points.”

Alexander didn’t receive any awards or accolades for his performance this summer, but he was a major factor during his team’s championship run.

Clemmons and Uthoff were named MVPs of the Prime Time League at the conclusion of last night’s competition. Clemmons, a native of Lansing, Mich., averaged 25 points and 6 assists per game on the way to securing his second-consecutive Prime Time League title.

“It’s unbelievable,” Clemmons said. “You always want to win and come out at the top. Getting that title for second year in a row, I got a big crown on my head.”

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