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Jennings and Company in attack mode

BY CHARLIE GREEN | JUNE 18, 2015 5:00 AM

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With time winding down in the first half of Game Time League’s opening night, guard Whitney Jennings calmly walked the ball past half court as the clock ticked below 10 seconds.

And then boom — she fired into the lane, drew the defense in, and dished the ball to Iowa teammate Claire Till for a buzzer-beating 3-pointer.

“That’s what we want to do,” head coach Randy Larson said. “I want [Jennings] to get back to what she did in high school, which was ‘I’m going to be aggressive, and you’re going to have to react to it.’ ”

It’s a sight that could become familiar in the summer of 2015 — and there’s a whole lot of basketball yet to be played.

Jennings brought that aggressiveness all game, and that play gave Larson’s team a commanding 67-35 lead at the half — eventually mounting to 126-78 pounding of Bethany Doolittle’s player-coached squad.

Now in her second summer of Game Time and with one year of Division-1 basketball experience, Jennings compiled 34 points, 9 assists, and 9 rebounds.

Larson’s squad pushed the ball all night, constantly putting pressure on Doolittle’s defense. Jennings’ speed and athleticism proved too much to handle, and when defenders in transition tried to merely stay between her and the basket, she made them pay with deadly pull-up jumpers.

Backcourt mate Moran Lonning, who plays in a similar attacking mindset, added to the assault. The two got Larson’s team out on the break as often as possible and seemed to never take their sights off the rim.

“We’re not tall, we’re quick, though; we’re fast,” Lonning said. “And we’re really pushing every single possession.”

The presence and skillset of Lonning allowed Jennings to spend much of the game at shooting guard, paving the way for 7-for-11 shooting night from beyond the arc. This way, Larson has options with his versatile first-round pick.

“I wanted Whitney to be able to play both guards, but on some teams, she’s such a great point guard that she’d never get any minutes at 2,” Larson said. “When a girl scores 34, you’ve gotten her in a position where she can succeed, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

When the defense collapsed on their drives, neither hesitated to kick it out to open teammates on the perimeter.

Lonning’s aggressive approach led to opportunities at the rim, where she showed the ability to finish in contact and draw fouls. She finished with 24 points.

Till also had a big game for Larson and Company, shooting 5-of-6 from deep and adding 26 points of her own. The “big three” accounted for 66 percent of its team’s points.

The number may be slightly skewed simply because Doolittle juggled coaching and playing responsibilities and was also dealing with a short-handed group.

Even so, the dynamic Jennings and Lonning bring from Larson’s backcourt is an endless onslaught of speed and decisiveness — forcing defenses to think and react quickly or pay the price.

Throw Till in the mix, and this offense looks like a force to be reckoned with.

“I think we have nine players who can do everything, everyone can score,” Jennings said. “I think when you have as many players that can do that, you can push, you can pass, and you have a lot of wide-open shots.”


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