Game Time playoffs begin tonight

BY JACOB SHEYKO | JULY 22, 2013 5:00 AM

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The Game Time League playoffs kick off tonight, which means two teams will be sent home and two will continue on to Wednesday’s title game. But even with a summer-league championship bid looming, the players’ focus may be on something other than winning.

Each year, the Game Time League allows Hawkeye players the opportunity to mesh with their teammates, both new and old. This is something they work to take advantage of.

Some Game Time squads have that chemistry from the beginning, and others develop it throughout the summer weeks. One of those squads that had it from the get-go was Melissa Dixon’s and Claire Till’s team.

Dixon and her teammates have known their identities and roles since the season-opener. Their philosophy is simple: Push the ball, crash the boards, and find Dixon when she’s feeling it.

“We just want to play unselfishly, have everyone get involved,” said Randy Larson, who doubles as Dixon’s coach and the league’s commissioner. “I’m a big believer that you just have to play everybody so they get enough confidence to play at this level.

“That’s why you draft players like Dixon and Till — they don’t know how to play selfishly.”

Dixon’s team carries a 4-0 record into the playoffs and is the favorite entering the contest against Bethany Doolittle’s and Ally Disterhoft’s team at 6 p.m. today. And if that isn’t enough, Dixon’s squad has performed at its highest level in its last two contests, scoring in the triple digits both times.

For Sam Logic’s and Alexa Kastanek’s team — which will take on Theairra Taylor’s squad at 7:30 p.m., in the second semifinal — winning didn’t happen automatically. Logic’s team started league play 0-2 and had to fight just to get into the playoffs.

But even amid the losing, the players’ goals remained on something other than the final score.
That goal, for Logic, was meshing with newcomer Kastanek, because prior to Game Time, they had limited on-court action with each other.

“It’s really important to kind of get the groove with someone new,” Logic said.

Logic was the focal point of her team in the league’s opening weeks, and every aspect of the games fell on her shoulders. Now, her team stands at 2-2, and instead of relying solely on Logic, it has found numerous players contributing on a nightly basis. 

One of those contributors is Kastanek, who found her groove after a slow start. Her toughness was evident from the start, but her offensive ability was not.

But as the summer progressed, so did her offensive skills. This didn’t surprise Kastanek.

“I think it was kind of expected for us to be rusty [in the beginning], because we hadn’t really played together,” Kastanek said.

Making the transition from high school to college, or role player to starter, isn’t easy, but Game Time aids the process. And even though the important season doesn’t start for another four months, players insist that these games will pay dividends come November.

From what Larson has seen so far, he believes that this upcoming season could be one to remember.

“I think it’s very possible that with Doolittle, Till, Dixon, Logic, and Theairra — that’s a Big Ten championship-caliber team if they continue to get better,” Larson said. “… I’m excited about both men’s and women’s basketball.”

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