Defense key for Unkrich's Game Time success

BY CHARLES GREEN | JULY 07, 2014 5:00 AM

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Anyone with basketball knowledge knows it takes more than scoring to win games. That has been true for Brendan Unkrich’s team’s 3-0 start in the Game Time League.

While scoring a league-high 96 points per game is a feat in its own, perhaps more impressive is allowing a league-low 69.

“They’ve played so well together,” Unkrich said. “We make sure to make a point of everyone talking on offense and defense.”

The offense has certainly been there, largely thanks to Ally Disterhoft averaging 38 points per game. When she gets double-teamed, which is a frequent occurrence, it seems there is always an opportunistic teammate ready for the ball.

“Everyone is unselfish on our team,” guard Moran Lonning said. “Even Ally will hit the extra pass if it creates an easier look.”

Even with a potent offensive attach, an underappreciated defense has been the key to the team’s success.

Collectively, they have stifled opponents on the defensive end. Giving that relatively small number of points per game, they have yet to win by fewer than 19 points.

“We have to talk a lot,” incoming Hawkeye forward Chase Coley said. “There’s a lot of switches and screens and traffic in the lane, so communication is key.”

On July 2, they had their work cut out for them, playing against two of the league’s best players in Whitney Jennings and Kali Peschel. Peschel scored 28 points, but Pat McCool’s team was held to just 71, by far its lowest output yet.

“We try to make sure we help each other out on defense,” Coley said.  “Especially on girls like [Jennings], who can get to the basket, we really need to key in and make sure she doesn’t get around anyone.”

Jennings had 11 points in the first half, showing the same ability to get to the basket that had helped her team win its first two games.

Up by just 4 at halftime, Unkrich’s defense buckled down and held Jennings to just 4 second-half points.

“In the second half, I backed off her a little,” Lonning said. “I was able to read her more when she would spin and tried to make her hit the outside shot.”

Players such as Lonning and Courtney Strait kept Jennings and others out of the lane most of the second half. When she did penetrate or get the ball to a teammate down low, the 6-3 Coley’s presence as a shot-blocker kept them in check.

With the strong defensive play, less pressure was on Disterhoft’s scoring to carry the load. But she has not scored fewer than 36 in an outing, while three of her teammates are also averaging double digits.

Unkrich has a complete team that is rolling right now.

“I feel like we have really good chemistry,” Coley said. “ We’ve learned each other’s strengths and weaknesses.”

There is still one game left before the playoffs start, but to this point, they have shown nothing to indicate their dominance won’t continue.

“We have a big game next week,” Lonning said. “Win, and we get the first seed, but it’s all about the playoffs. We’re just excited and having fun when we play.”

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