Two Midwest Basketball League opponents met at the Cedar Valley SportsPlex in Waterloo on Sunday night to renew their rivalry in their first of three regular season meetings. The Cedar Valley CourtKings (2-0), riding a 30 game win streak, entered the evening after a 118-91 victory over the Rochester Roadrunners last weekend. For the Minnesota Broncos (2-1), they split two games against T.C. Elite a week ago. For both squads, this game provided extra motivation as the chance to take over first place in the Northwest division was on the line.
Right out of the gate, the Broncos brought speed to the court. Using forwards Alejandro Richardson and Valentino Jackson, Minnesota used their game in the paint to slow down the CourtKings early in the first quarter. Despite picking up the pace throughout the period on the offensive side of the ball, the CourtKings struggled early to keep pace with the Broncos offense. A pair of three point baskets by Dylan Hale and Mackenzie Johnson helped cut into the Bronco lead, which stood at 29-28 at the end of the first twelve minutes.
In the second, the Broncos continued to add pressure. Despite this, the CourtKings set the tone for the quarter with a dunk by Johnny Jackson with an alley-oop assist from Aundre Hicks. Here, the CourtKings defensive rebounding started to pick up. This led to more score chances for the Cedar Valley, mainly through layup shots that were rolled in by Hicks and Raijon Kelly. The CourtKings went into the break with a 56-53 lead into the halfway point of the back and forth match-up.
To kick off the third period, Brady Burford slammed a dunk through. Even with some momentum coming out of the locker room, the CourtKings struggled to defend against the Broncos shots from beyond the arc, allowing nine three point buckets to sink in and score throughout the night. The CourtKings continued to push forward with their game plan in spite of the fast paced offense they were facing. “It’s really just continuing to play our game,” said associate head coach Billy Campbell. “With the depth that we have, we don’t really have to stress too much when they take a good lead on us because eventually they’ll wear themselves down if we keep playing our game.” The Cedar Valley defense was able to draw more fouls from the Broncos and complete nine of eleven free throws in the quarter. This gave the CourtKings a 91-79 lead, their biggest of the game, into the final period.
Despite being down, the Broncos fought to put more defensive pressure on the CourtKings to fight within six as the final twelve minutes ticked down. Minnesota’s Richardson and Steven Stransky both fouled out at the midpoint of the fourth, and the CourtKings used the Broncos late period turnovers to escape with a 115-103 victory to extend their winning streak to 31 games, and secure first place in the Northwest division. Kelly led the team with 26 points, seven rebounds, and four assists in the win. “We wanted to play inside out,” Kelly explained following the win. “We got some good size on our team and we got some wings that are big too, so as a team when we penetrate we rebound offensively pretty well. We just wanted to battle and play tough and I think we prevailed at that.” Burford added 21 more points along with seven more rebound, while David Stanley sank 15 points shooting 50% from the field.
Another CourtKing rival will come to Waterloo next Sunday as the Minnesota Lakers (formerly known as the Rangers) come in for the final game of the current homestand. These two squads last met in July 2017 when the CourtKings defeated the Rangers to clinch the MBL West Division title en route to a second straight league championship. The doors of the Cedar Valley SportsPlex will open at 6:30pm with tip off for the game set for 7:30pm.