Despite the almost endless falling of sudden April snow outside, fans packed into the Cedar Valley SportsPlex on Sunday night to see two Midwest Basketball League teams square off in their respective season opening games. The Cedar Valley CourtKings, fresh off a 19-0 undefeated season in 2017, looked to add another victory to their winning streak, while the North Minneapolis Eagles, playing in their first MBL game as a full member team, looked to improve off a 5-6 campaign of a year ago.
Prior to tip-off, the CourtKings paid homage to their 2017 championship team by handing out their championship rings and unveiling the new MBL championship banner above the court. “It awesome,” said CourtKings owner and general manager Gary Rima. “I gotta thank the crowd for coming out tonight. It was so fun to present those guys that dedicated themselves last year to win that championship in an undefeated season, so to present them with a nice ring as a momento they can keep for a lifetime, and then to put up a second banner. Two championship banners in two years? You can’t do any better!”
Both teams brought high energy and intensity into this first game of the regular season. This was evident in the first quarter. After the CourtKings won the opening tip, the two squads swapped possessions with the CourtKings holding the Eagles to one field goal and two free throws in the first five and a half minutes and an early 14-4 leads. After the first media timeout, both the CourtKings and Eagles began to trade fouls, quickly entering the bonus and earning trips to the free throw line. The Eagles committed 11 fouls in the first 12 minutes, allowing the CourtKings to sink 11 of 15 shots at the charity stripe, and build a 39-20 lead.
In the second period, both the Eagles and CourtKings turned up the offensive pace with a tight 18-15 Cedar Valley run. Yet the CourtKings were able to start to pull away late in the quarter thanks to strong ball movement and stellar defensive possessions. Four first half fouls by Marteze Jackson of the Eagles also allowed more trips to the free throw line. Just before the halftime buzzer, great offensive play design allowed guard Queshawn Roby to put up a buzzer beater three point basket to end the half up by a score of 80-46. Mark Turner, DeAnthony Taylor, and Jim Oyefeso led the Eagles in scoring at the break with nine points each, while Brady Burford led the CourtKings with 19.
As the third quarter began, the CourtKings continued to add pressure starting the period with 11 points immediately out of the gate. This momentum continued deep into quarter as the CourtKings pushed their lead up to 34 points. Only a few seconds later however, Mark Turner of the Eagles was involved in a serious injury when he hit the floor on a fouling play. Following the injury timeout, the CourtKings continued to work both inside the paint and from beyond the arc to push the lead to 105-70 going into the final period.
In the fourth, Burford continued to add to his impressive offensive display by adding 10 fourth quarter points to his team leading 34 points. “Coach told us to focus on rebounding,” Burford said following the game. “That’s what I love to do. I love playing down in the paint.” As the final buzzer sounded, the Cedar Valley faithful rose to their feet as the CourtKings took the win by a final score of 144-97, secured their 27th consecutive victory dating back to July 2016. Raheem Tyner added 22 more points to the winning effort while Aundre Hicks sank 20.
With the first game now in the books, the CourtKings will hit the road up to Minnesota next weekend for two key Northwest Division matchups against T.C. Elite on Saturday, April 14 , and the Minnesota Broncos on Sunday the 15th. Online radio broadcasts will be available for both games at cvcourtkings.com