The Cedar Valley CourtKings came to Collegeville, Minnesota with one goal on their mind. To win a third straight Midwest Basketball League championship. On Friday night they took the first step towards that goal as they opened up play in the MBL Playoffs on the St. John’s University campus in the first round.
Standing in their way were the Springfield Panthers (10-7), who the CourtKing defeated 126-116 back on May 27th in southern Illinois. Much like their late May game that saw the CourtKings rally in the fourth to victory, the two-time defending MBL champions blazed their way to the finish line.
In the first quarter, the Panthers started quick, commanding their offense through Denzell Walker and his 15 first period points. The CourtKings’ David Stanley and Aundre Hicks responded with two baskets from downtown each to keep the Panthers within reach. While Springfield set the pace early, tight defense by the Cedar Valley forced the Panthers to play through Walker. At the end of the first, the CourtKings held on to a close four point lead, 32-28.
The CourtKings took a big hit in the second period as Brady Burford was assessed two technical fouls and ejected from the game. His ejection requires him to sit for the next game on the schedule. With Burford out, Springfield’s Michael Chandler put on a show the CourtKings have rarely seen as he dropped 31 points on the reigning champions, shooting two shots from three point range, five of six free throws, and ten field goals for two. In response to Chandler’s hot quarter, the CourtKings began to share the ball and find better looks from around the court. Stanley and Dylan Hale found the hoop from beyond the arc two more times each as the CourtKings held onto the lead heading into the halftime break, 69-66.
In the third, as Chandler continued to wreak havoc on his defenders, the Cedar Valley offense continued to fight through the period. Forcing the Panthers into foul situations, the CourtKings shot eight for nine from the charity stripe in the third while fighting their way into the lane for layups. With a 101-95 lead heading into the fourth quarter, the CourtKings offensive machine cranked the efficiency up to max. Seven three point buckets and several forced turnovers helped the CourtKings cruise away with the lead as the Panthers were forced to played tired basketball through Terrance Walls, Walker, and Chandler. The tough fought battle reached its conclusion at the final buzzer with the CourtKings claiming the 140-116 win over Springfield, capping a 39-21 fourth quarter run. Hicks lead the night for the Cedar Valley with a team high 26 points, along with eight rebounds and five assists. Stanley ended the night with 24 points, including a five for six shooting line from the three point zone. Anthony James added 18, Johnny Jackson scored 17, and Raijon Kelly had 13.
With the win, the CourtKings (16-1) now advance to the MBL Playoff Semifinals to take on a familiar opponent in T.C. Elite on Saturday, July 28 at 6:00pm. Fans can tune into the game online at cvcourtkings.com with the pregame show beginning at approximately 5:50pm.