Without Dixon, Larson’s squad rallies to advance

BY NICK STEFFEN | JULY 24, 2014 5:00 AM

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The loss of Randy Larson’s leading scorer did not affect his team as much as one would think in Wednesday’s game against Joe Johnston’s squad. In the contest, both teams had to fight for every inch of ground on their way to the hoop.  

Larson’s team suffered the loss of its leading scorer, Iowa’s Melissa Dixon, but the players came together to win, 80-74, sending them to the Game Time League championship.

Dixon sat out this week during her team’s second playoff game because of a sore heel — it is questionable if she will play in next week’s championship game. Larson said she was day-by-day.

The rest of Larson’s players stepped up in Dixon’s absence to make big plays and keep their team ahead of Johnston’s. St. Ambrose’s Madalyn Welty did not hesitate to shoot from the field or drive the ball. Ex-Northern Iowa player Jacqui Kalin performed exceptionally and became Larson’s best player, scoring, 28 points, getting 12 rebounds, and dishing out 12 assists.

“I’m so proud of them because the natural thing would be to show up and say, ‘We don’t have Melissa, and she scored 63 points last time we played these guys, and without her we don’t stand a chance,’ ” Larson said.

“And right from the get-go, I could tell that they didn’t think that, they didn’t believe that,” he said. “I thought everyone played her role beautifully, and we let [Kalin] kind of run the show, and of course Jacqui is awfully good.”

Larson’s team played with a lot of energy in the first half and led by an impressive 43-29 going into the break, but Johnston’s squad was only warming up. In the second half, his players sliced the lead to 2 at 52-50 after 10 minutes of play.

Johnston’s squad rallied behind Iowa center Bethany Doolittle, who scored 25 points and had 14 rebounds.

“We kind of just came out flat in the first half a little bit, but I’m a competitive person, and this Game Time is for us to work on our game,” Doolittle said. “I just had a little bit more fun with it, and I kind of tried to work on my game a little more, and I got the team going with it.”

For Larson’s squad, Iowa’s Carly Mohns scored 14 points and played a great defensive game, grabbing 13 rebounds, and Linn-Mar high school’s Anne Visser played well offensively, scoring 17 points.

Mohns was proud of her team afterword and was equally impressed by Doolittle’s performance.

“I thought a lot of people stepped up,” Mohns said. “I thought [Doolittle] did a great job being really aggressive; she took the ball and took control of the game. I thought that was really huge for her.”

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