Two teams battle for Game Time crown

BY WILL MCDAVID | JULY 30, 2014 5:00 AM

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After six weeks of hard work and grueling competition, the road to the Game Time League championship ends tonight.

For coach Randy Larson, winning a title means inheriting the unenviable job of defeating Brendan Unkrich’s squad, the league’s only undefeated team.

Larson’s players know the key to conquer its opponent is to hold down its leading scorer, Iowa sophomore Ally Disterhoft.

“They execute. They’re one of the teams that puts in some plays, and [Unkrich] does a nice job of coaching them,” Larson said. “But it’s all about stopping Disterhoft. She’s the thing that makes them go. If you can stop her or slow her down, you’re going to win, but so far, no one’s been close to being able to do that.”

While last week’s 80-74 victory over Joe Johnston’s team reminded onlookers that any roster with Iowa freshman Carly Mohns and two-time Missouri Valley Player of the Year Jacqui Kalin poses the threat of an upset, the team’s title hopes ultimately hinge on the status of reigning league co-MVP Melissa Dixon, who sat out the squad’s July 23 contest with an inflamed heel.

After last week’s game, Larson was unsure about his star’s availability for tonight’s final.

“We don’t know,” he said. “Her heel is inflamed, and when the inflammation is completely out of it, they’ll let her work out again. She thinks she’ll be ready, but they won’t probably look at it until Monday or Tuesday.”

Though Dixon’s timetable is unknown, Kalin remains confident in her team’s ability.

“We have to believe that everyone’s beatable, even though they haven’t lost,” she said. “You play the game because any team is beatable on any given night, and so we’ll have to just come ready to play.”

While one can envision a variety of scenarios in which Larson’s team can prevail, Unkrich’s team is still the heavy favorite, boasting a high-powered offense befitting its flawless record.

“We’ve got to keep doing what we do, and that’s score the basketball,” Unkrich said. “They say defense wins championships, but we score, and we put pressure on them, and that’s our best defense.”

Though incoming Iowa freshman Chase Coley complements her team’s attack, Unkrich’s offensive game plan begins and ends with Disterhoft.

“Ally’s made such great strides this year,” Unkrich said. “She was more of a shooter last year. She shoots the ball more inside the lane than she does outside the arc, and that’s what we try to teach every player.”

After averaging nearly 40 points per game in Game Time play, the sharpshooting sophomore has shown time and again that her coach has reason to be proud.

For the 5-0 team, a win Wednesday night would represent far more than the extension of an impressive winning streak. To Unkrich and Company, it would mean the right to be called champions — the perfect ending to a perfect season.

“You go into every game individually, and you go into every game to win the basketball game, and that’s what we’re going to do,” Unkrich said. “It’s our last game of the year, and we’re just going to look at it like any other game, and we’re going to do what we do well, score the basketball and get back on defense.”

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