Prime Time’s final four is set

BY WILL MCDAVID | JULY 21, 2014 5:00 AM

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After two hard-fought elimination games and one exhibition on July 17, the Prime Time League has its final four. If the play last week was any indication, all four have proven themselves ready for the challenge.

Though the first game of the evening, a 6 p.m. showdown between Dan Ahrens’ team and Ron Nove’s team, was merely an exhibition, this contest might have had the greatest championship implications of any of the July 17 games.

With Ahrens’ and Nove’s groups possessing the first and second seeds respectively, chances were high that a battle between the two clubs could represent a sort of championship preview. So when Nove’s squad prevailed, 103-96, over an opponent widely thought to be the league’s best, its players saw more than just a friendly scrimmage.

“We probably just matched up the best two teams in the league,” Northern Iowa forward Marvin Singleton said. “We’re the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds, so I think this probably might be the championship game.”

Though Nove’s squad has gained the unique confidence that comes from beating Prime Time’s Goliath, Ahrens’ Jarrod Uthoff isn’t ready to put much stake into the loss.

“Today was kind of a friendly match,” he said. “I don’t really know how hard people were going.”

While Uthoff’s game had no actual bearing on his team’s postseason standing, Randy Larson’s team was fighting for its playoff life against Ray Swetalla’s squad in the adjacent gym. With both teams vying for a spot in the semifinals, the contest was closely contested throughout.

Despite Swetalla’s team’s best efforts, the players couldn’t overcome the second-half dominance of Adam Woodbury, who amassed 13 points in the game’s closing stanza. Larson’s group won, 100-96.

“I didn’t think I played well in the first half,” Woodbury said. “But I let things come to me, and I think I did better in the second half.”

While not as highly regarded as other title hopefuls, if Woodbury maintains his current level of play, Larson’s team will be hard to stop come Thursday.

With Larson’s team officially joining Ahrens’ and Noves’ in the second round, the evening’s final game was an opportunity for Kevin Sanders’ squad to prove its playoff mettle.

The contest posed a unique challenge to Sanders’ group because of a roster shortage for Kevin Lehman’s team — Iowa guard Peter Jok has been suspended. Prime Time officials ruled that former Iowa standout Melsahn Basabe was an eligible replacement.

With Basabe in fold, Lehman’s squad was resilient, fighting Sanders’ team for every basket. However, by the end of the 113-99 contest, the offensive efficiency and interior defense of Sanders’ group proved to be too much.

While Gabe Olaseni, Paul Jesperson, and Josh Ogelsby combined for 71 points, former Hawkeye Jason Price’s performance swung the game; he posted game highs in both points (30) and assists (9).

Beyond his on-court skills, Prime Time veteran Price’s ability to play point guard hinged on the veteran leadership he provides.

“I’ve been playing in this league for a long time,” Price said. “I try to be a coach on the floor and use what I learn from the game to share with these young guys and have fun with it.

“If we keep playing like we’re playing I think we’ve got a shot at [the championship].”

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