By Jordan Zuniga
The Prime Time’s regular season ended on July 13, which means it’s playoff time. The league’s first two playoff games took place Sunday in the North Liberty Community Center.
The first game featured matchup between Marion Iron and Vinton Merchants.
Marion Iron features Hawkeye senior Dom Uhl (who did not play because of injury) and Iowa sophomore Tyler Cook; Vinton sports freshman Jack Nunge and junior Brady Ellingson.
The game showcased the skills of Cook and Nunge, who guarded each other throughout.
“It was a really physical game,” Nunge said. “We both were trying to attack the basket every time. You know, that’s kind of what practices are like, trying to go strong to the basket.”
Nunge drew first blood, scoring the first 2 points of the game.
Vinton did not relinquish the lead until around halfway through the second half, when Marion hit a 3 to make the score 61-60 with 11:22 to play. But Nunge and Vinton took back the lead on the next possession.
Vinton then held the lead until Marion tied the game at 74 with 4:14 left to play. That’s when Nunge showed he’s ready to face the pressure of college basketball — he scored the game’s next 5 points with a 3 and a put-back dunk.
It was a game-changing moment, and Vinton didn’t lose the lead for the rest of the game.
With the 86-74 win, Vinton will take on Jordan Bohannon, Ryan Kriener, and the rest of the L.L. Pelling squad on Thursday.
Cook’s team might have lost the game, but he put up monster numbers, going for 30 points with 8 rebounds and 5 assists.
For Vinton, Ellingson had 15 points with 7 rebounds and 6 assists, while Nunge led the way with 34 points and 11 rebounds.
“He [Nunge] can really shoot the ball and stretch the floor,” Cook said. “He’s going to be a really good weapon for us this year. The more he learns to pick his spots, the better off he is going to be.”
Right after the first game, the Armstrong team took on Westpoint in the final playoff game of the day.
The game featured Iowa juniors Ahmad Wagner and Christian Williams playing for Armstrong and freshman Luka Garza and sophomore Maishe Dailey on Westpoint.
For most of the game, Westpoint dominated, taking the lead to start the game. From the last minutes of the first half through the opening minutes of the second half, Westpoint played its best basketball of the game, going on a 16-4 run and taking a 59-58 lead.
It didn’t take long for Armstrong to come roaring back. Garza got hot and led the team to finish the second half strong.
“Anytime you can play good against [Wagner], it’s a good feeling,” Garza said. “I don’t know if I’ll continue to do well against him, but I’m going to keep trying. He’s definitely going to push me in practice so I’m going to get a lot better by going up against him.”
Garza finished with 27 points and 4 rebounds, and teammate Dailey had 22 points and 11 rebounds.
On the losing side, Wagner had 28 points and 10 rebounds; Williams had 18 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 assists.
The 104-96 victory means Westpoint squad will take on Nicholas Baer and Isaiah Moss on Thursday for a chance to play for the Prime Time title on July 23.
The Prime Time semifinals will take place in the Sports Plex in Waterloo, with the first game starting at 6 p.m. and the second game taking place right after.