Throughout the 2018 season, Cedar Valley CourtKings head coach Michael Mohlis explained to his team the idea of the season as a journey they would take together. On Saturday night in Collegeville, Minnesota, the journey came to its end as the CourtKings (16-2) fell to T.C. Elite (12-6) in the MBL Playoffs Semi Final round at St. John’s University’s Sexton Arena. The loss now wraps up a season which saw the CourtKings play strong in from start to finish.
This was the fourth time this season that the CourtKings and Elite met, with the Cedar Valley winning the regular season series two games to one. Neither of those previous three matchups would matter after a winner take all playoff game with a spot in the MBL Championship Game up for grabs. Right out of the gate, the Elite dominated the court from scoring to rebounding. Four three point buckets, including two from Elijah Sabah put the CourtKings into an early hole. The Cedar Valley offense struggled to respond from beyond the arc and wouldn’t hit a three until the second quarter as they were held to a tied season low 15 first quarter points, trailing 31-15 at the end of the first.
The CourtKings continued to struggle in the second as they were forced to put up difficult shots against a quick T.C. Elite defense. Brady Burford, who averaged 24.6 points per game 9.3 rebounds was unavailable to help the CourtKings on the floor due to a one game suspension he received from his double technical fouls in his team’s first round win over the Springfield Panthers the night earlier. Despite outscoring the Elite 24-23 in the second and hitting their first three buckets from downtown of the game, the CourtKings went to the locker room down 54-39.
Out of the halftime break, the CourtKings began to warm up and put some pressure on the Elite. Aundre Hicks came alive scoring 15 of his team high 31 points from the free throw line and from the field. Raijon Kelly also shot a perfect five for five from the charity stripe on foul shots to pull the CourtKings deficit down to single digits. Yet the Elite fought back employing Dejuan Flowers, Quincy Bey, and Sabah to push the lead back up to double digits. While the CourtKings didn’t allow any three’s in the third, they still trailed by 11 at the end of the third period, 82-71.
As the fourth period began and the time began to tick away, Sabah took command of the Elite with 13 points. The CourtKings meanwhile, weren’t ready to surrender just yet despite trailing as much as 17 during the game. In the final minutes, loose ball turnovers by the Elite allowed the CourtKings to cut the deficit back to single digits once again and put them within striking distance. In the final seconds with the game nearly in hand for the Elite, the CourtKings got a break as the Elite were called for technical foul for a player out of bounds in the backcourt. This allowed the CourtKings a free throw shot by Kelly off the foul to make it a two point game. Following a missed free throw by the Elite and a recovered ball by the Cedar Valley, the CourtKings were unable to get the ball into shooting range for a potential game tying or game winning shot as the final seconds ticked away, ending their season with a 108-106 loss to the Elite. Hicks ended the night with 31 points, eight rebounds, and four assists, as Kelly finished the game with 28 points, seven boards, and four assists.
The Elite now advance to play the Fort Wayne Vision in the MBL Championship at 3:00pm at Sexton Arena. For the CourtKings, the end of the 2018 campaign marks the end of a remarkable three year run that has seen them accumulate a 50-6 record, a 25-0 home record, and two league championships in three years.
Be sure to follow cvcourtkings.com and the team on social media for offseason news and reports as we start to gear up for the 2019 season in a few months!