Disterhoft's team advances to Game Time title game

BY JACOB SHEYKO | JULY 23, 2013 5:00 AM

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Stopping Melissa Dixon isn’t an easy thing to do. And up until Monday night, no one had found a way to do so. She routinely torched teams for 30 points or more each night this summer.

Then Ally Disterhoft and Bethany Doolittle’s team threw a box-and-one-zone at her and changed the entire complexion of the Game Time League playoffs, toppling Dixon and her top-seeded team, 76-73, in the first of two playoff semifinals on Monday night.

It’s unfair to say that Dixon was stopped completely — she dropped 23 points. But compared with what she’s done all summer long, this was certainly the closest anyone came to stopping the lethal guard. 

Dixon’s team was doomed by a poor offensive performance in the first half and never recovered. Much of the credit goes to coach Brendan Unkrich and his decision to guard Dixon with a box-and-one-zone.

Having someone follow Dixon around everywhere on the court allowed Disterhoft’s team to hold Dixon to 6 first-half points, 27 for her team.

“I think we were just trying to throw something a little unexpected at her,” said Disterhoft, who tallied 28 points. “I don’t think they were thinking that we were going to come out a play box-and-one. So I think it kind of threw them off early.”

Disterhoft’s team gathered this lead early in the first half with a 19-3 run, sparked by the zone defense. This allowed Disterhoft’s team to get stops and play at its pace — something that teams facing Dixon have had problems with all season long.

The zone packed four players into the paint at all times, making it difficult for Dixon’s team to drive and finish down low — a part of its game that made Dixon’s team so dangerous during the summer.

It wasn’t until the second half that Dixon’s squad was able to adjust and play to the level that fans had grown accustomed to. They no longer allowed the defense to get set after some halftime adjustments. They pushed the ball up the court and attacked the paint.

“We just figured out how to break it,” said Dixon. “Once we started driving, it kind of broke down the defense.”

Dixon’s team also credited its ability to stretch the defense with its 3-point shooting as another reason it clawed back into the game. That deep-threat presence was absent in the first half, but Dixon’s team recovered to hit seven treys in the second period.

A few of those zone-breaking treys came from Claire Till, who has taken to Game Time to address that aspect of her game.

“[The Iowa coaches] want me to be able to guard a big girl, and work both guard and post. And in transition being able to shoot that 3,” she said. “I have gotten a lot more confident with that as the summer’s gone on.”

But it was too little too late for Dixon’s team, who was undefeated prior to this matchup. Even as her team got several open looks that trimmed the lead to 3 with under a minute remaining, the shots didn’t fall, and the season abruptly ended.

Disterhoft’s team will advance to Wednesday’s final for a chance to compete for a Game Time League Championship. For the freshman, things are looking up.

“Were having a lot of fun out there,” she said. “So far, it’s been good. Hopefully, we can get the win on Wednesday.”

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