By Jordan Zuniga
The Prime-Time league concluded Sunday with incoming freshman Jack Nunge and junior Brady Ellingson’s team winning the crown with a 96-92 overtime victory over Maishe Dailey’s squad.
It was not a close game to start.
Vinton jumped out to a 39-24 lead with 4:38 to go in the half. But Westport came roaring back in the last four minutes, going on an 11-2 run to make it a 41-35 Vinton lead at the half.
After a rough finish to the first half, Vinton remained resilient going into the second half and opened up a 10-2 run of its own to start to give it a menacing 51-37 lead with around 15 minutes left.
Dailey and Westport didn’t panic, eventually fighting back into the game when Wheeler Baker of North Dakota tied the game at 68 on a lay-up with 6:42 to play.
For the next two minutes, the teams battled back and forth, neither able to gain an advantage until UNI’s Wyatt Lohaus gave Westport a 74-72 lead with 4 minutes left.
It did not relinquish the lead until Ellingson hit a 3 with 48.9 seconds left to tie the game at 80.
Then, with 21.1 seconds left in regulation, Ellingson stepped to the line and sank two free throws to give his team an 82-80 advantage.
“It felt good [to hit that shot],” Ellingson said. “I don’t really put much pressure on myself, so it’s nice to be able to make those kinds of shots.”
Westport had one last chance to tie or win the game, and it took advantage of that when UNI’s Hal Bateman hit two free throws, tying the game at 82 and sending the game to overtime.
The extra time started out as close as regulation had finished, with the teams trading baskets.
Then Dailey nailed a huge 3 to put Westport up 90-87 with 2:46 to go.
Westport was able to hold the lead until Nunge put up a lay-up and a free throw to tie it with 1:08 to play.
Nunge wasn’t done yet.
After playing great defense on Westport’s next possession, Nunge hustled back on offense to score on a lay-up that gave his team a 94-92 advantage.
Again, Westport failed to score, forcing it to foul Ellingson, who hit two free throws to seal the win for Vinton.
“We had a great summer,” Nunge said. “I learned a lot; we had a good team. To come out on top just makes it even better.”
Ellingson finished with 20 points, 10 boards, and 3 assists, and Nunge scored 42 with 14 rebounds.
On the losing side, Dailey put up just 9 points with 8 rebounds and 3 assists, Dailey’s Iowa teammate, Luka Garza, did not play because of injury.
After the game, Nunge was named the Prime Time MVP, a title well deserved; he led the league in both scoring and rebounding.
In nine games, he averaged 34.5 points, 13.3 rebounds, and 2.5 assists.
“It feels great,” Nunge said about the award. “I got to credit it all to my teammates. They were giving me the ball where I could score and just giving me the opportunities. We came out on top, so that’s big.”
Iowa fans hope that Nunge can build on his Prime Time success and possibly end this season with a Big Ten Freshman of the Year award.