Wednesday marks beginning of Game Time

BY WILL MCDAVID | JUNE 19, 2014 5:00 AM

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Six teams began their quest for summer-league greatness as the Game Time League held its first games in North Liberty, and in the evening’s opening contest, two squads appeared to be right on course. The game, pitting coach Joe Johnston’s team against coach Pat McCool’s, was easily the night’s most tightly contested battle, ending with a long-range buzzer-beater.

Incoming freshman and Indiana Gatorade Player of the Year Whitney Jennings stole the show in the game’s opening stanza, using a lightning-quick first step and wide array of dribble moves to blow by opposing defenders. With the help of Iowa junior Kali Peschel, who finished with a team-high 21 points, McCool’s squad built an early lead.

After such a great performance, the newcomer was reluctant to discuss her own accomplishments, instead deflecting attention to her teammates.

“It was nice,” Jennings said of her late shot. “It was nice to be able to win and hit that … It was fun to get out there and play with Kali.”

Despite McCool’s team’s early surge, Johnston’s team rallied; the outstanding post play of Iowa’s Bethany Doolittle not only narrowed the club’s near double-digit deficit, it also allowed the group to take a commanding 49-40 lead going into the half.

“She is the team, just about,” Johnston said about Doolittle, “We have to try to go into her every time, because they double- and triple-team her, and even if she can’t get the shot off, somebody else is open.”

As the second period progressed, McCool’s squad stormed back behind a 3-point barrage from Upper Iowa’s Lauren Buck, whose three-consecutive triples brought the squad within 5 points.

The stage was set, and just as she had in the first half, Jennings rose to the occasion. She went on a late-game tear, a sequence that included a pair of jump shots, an “and-one” lay-up, and in the game’s closing seconds, a buzzer-beater.

Though the talented trio of Jennings, Peschel, and Buck won the day, Doolittle’s game-high 30 points gave Johnston’s bunch reason for hope going into next week’s game.

“My teammates really let me know when they were open, if somebody was doubling or tripling me,” Doolittle said. “I was able to find my teammates for passes or take that shot myself, if that’s what I needed to do.”

Though optimism after a tough loss is crucial, Doolittle’s focus is squarely lies squarely on improvement.

“It all revolves around defense. We’ve got to know who we have down the floor, stop the ball, especially boxing out,” she said. “We’ve got to hone our skills and work on the boxing out a little bit.”

Clark Anderson’s team vs. Randy Larson’s team

Playing without Iowa star Samantha Logic, Anderson’s squad suffered a blow-out at the hands of Larson’s team.

Logic’s glaring absence was made even more obvious by the play of Melissa Dixon, whose 39 points proved both the highest scoring output of the evening and the driving force behind a 83-54 victory for Larson and company.

Brendan Unkrich’s team vs. Brian Joens’ team

In the second lopsided victory of the event, Unkrich’s team defeated Joens’ squad, 91-71. The former’s 20-point margin of victory was largely due to the stellar play of Iowa’s Ally Disterhoft, who poured in a 35 points on a super efficient 13-of-20 outing from the field. Chase Coley also made a significant contribution with a respectable 18 points on 9-of-15 shooting.

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