McCool and company deep and dangerous

BY CHARLES GREEN | JULY 17, 2014 5:00 AM

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Losing in any sport has a way of draining the confidence of players and teams. Coming into Wednesday night’s Game Time League playoff opener, No. 5 Pat McCool’s team had lost two straight.

They responded with a 116-65 rout of fourth-seeded Brian Joens’ team.

“I thought we learned something about ourselves offensively and defensively,” McCool said. “I think we got a little better for next week.”

Joens’ team was short-handed, missing a staple in Iowa guard Claire Till, among other players. And while the absence of Till’s leadership and intensity was visible, this was a dominant performance from McCool’s squad, and it didn’t come from just one player.

Five players scored in double figures for McCool, showcasing their teamwork, ball movement, and depth. This team shares the ball and has a group of players willing to pass up shots in order to find better looks.

“When you play unselfishly, you give yourself a fighting chance,” McCool said.

And the team has more than just a fighting chance; the squad is a contender to win it all. It would be foolish to declare anyone a favorite other than Brendan Unkrich’s team, which easily went unbeaten in regular season play behind stars Ally Disterhoft and Chase Coley.

It’s playoff time now, and unfortunately for Unkrich and his players, their marvelous season is in danger next week, when they will take on the only team that matches their depth.

Incoming Iowa freshman point guard Whitney Jennings and Iowa forward Kali Peschel are the team’s standout players, but the win on Wednesday proved they are more than a two-woman team.

Upper Iowa forward Lauren Buck provided a tall perimeter defender who can shoot with range; she had 19 points on Wednesday. Olivia Meier, who went off for 29 points and also plays for Upper Iowa, is a savvy mid-range shooter who can also finish at the basket in transition. When defenses collapse on Jennings, open looks are created for players such as Meier and Buck — who are more than capable of making defenses pay.

Ex-Northern Iowa guard K.K. Armstrong gets after loose balls as though her life depends on it, and she added 7 points and 9 rebounds Wednesday. Mickey Hansche from Coe College rounded out the team’s double-digit scorers, posting 13 points.

“The percentage of what we were shooting was ridiculous,” said ex-Tulsa center Rachel Henkelmann, who grabbed 5 boards in the matchup. “Everyone was on, and it was just a really good team effort.”

The players seem to have their roles on the team figured out, which may prove troublesome for Unkrich and Company.

To be fair, there wasn’t a better duo than Coley and Disterhoft during the regular season — but Peschel and Jennings are a close second. Jennings, who scored 15 for McCool, is a nightmare for defenses when the ball is in her hands.

Peschel is simply a model of consistency, always seeming to come up with tough buckets when her team needs them. She is the team’s primary scorer and had 32 points on Wednesday. Peschel, Jennings, and the rest of McCool’s well-rounded team will look to upset the league’s top team in next week’s semi-finals.

“Stopping Chase Coley and Ally Disterhoft is going to be huge,” Peschel said. “But if we play as a team, we can get it done.”

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