On a hot and humid Father’s Day weekend, the Cedar Valley CourtKings took their skills to the Land of 10,000 Lakes for a two game swing against two quality Minnesota teams. This was the first time in the 2018 season that the two-time reigning champions played two games in a two day span. At the end of a weekend that saw both games going down to the wire, the CourtKings returned home from the Twin Cities splitting the two matchups.
In the opener of the two game weekend bout, the CourtKings traveled to Minnesota’s capital city of St. Paul on June 16 to face MBL Select, a team that plays as one of three “travel team division” squads in the Midwest Basketball League. To start the game, it was Johnny Jackson and Anthony James finding the opening space in the lane for layups to start to set the offense tone early. MBL Select responded with strong play from Tarrell Clark, who laid in 12 points in the opening quarter, along with Jared Sutherland with seven, including a late period three point basket. After the first 12 minutes, the CourtKings led by six, 30-24.
In the second, the CourtKings offense forced MBL Select’s defense into foul situations and managed to sink nine of 12 free throws from the line. Jackson as well as Raijon Kelly continued to push the paint play up to the basket with three shots each, while David Stanley also nailed an early deep shot for three. Sutherland continued to push his team at the free throw line as Isaiah Gray sank seven points to cut the CourtKings lead down to three, 62-59.
To start the second half, the Cedar Valley turned up the heat from beyond the arc. Baskets from deep from Marcus Smith, Raheem Tyner, Stanley, and James helped the CourtKings push the pace out of the halftime break. Meanwhile, MBL Select put the offense into the hands of Louis Clark, Tarrell Clark, and Sutherland allowing them to score all of their team’s 24 third quarter points. Into the final period of action, Sutherland became the Select’s primary offensive weapon as he raced up into the lane and found a basket from deep. But the CourtKings continued to play a patent game shooting the ball and found good shot opportunities from all over the court, including four more well shot three point baskets. Despite a late push by the opposing team, the CourtKings rebounding off missed MBL Select baskets helped secure the Cedar Valley win, 129-122 for their tenth win of the season. Raheem Tyner notched a double-double with 20 points, ten rebounds, and five assists as he was one of seven Cedar Valley players to record double digit points. Mac Johnson also scored 20 while Aundre Hicks compiled 18, Raijon Kelly and David Stanley both scored 17, and Anthony James added 10 points.
On the second day of the two day trip, the CourtKings crossed the river to the Northwest side of Minneapolis to take on division rival T.C. Elite. Having met only two weeks ago in Waterloo and pulling off a six point win in front of a home crown, the CourtKings were determined to escape the Twin Cities with a win.
In a low scoring, but high shooting first quarter, the CourKings and Elite swapped baskets at their respective ends of the court. Despite scoring 15 in the opening period, the Cedar Valley only completed three field goal shots with the rest of their offense coming from the free throw line where they shot eight for 14. T.C. Elite’s Elijah Sabah scored a team high eight point in the first including two baskets from beyond the arc. At the end of one period of action, T.C. Elite led 19-15.
The second period saw the CourtKings find some early success with two deep three point baskets by Dylan Hale. Smith and Stanley found the hoop with a set of field goals of their own as the Cedar Valley worked to stay with the Elite as the quarter ticked down closer to the halftime break. On the other side of the ball it was the Elite’s C.J. Parker who came alive for eight points. Late intensity in the period helped the CourtKings cut the deficit down to one point, 39-38 at the half.
Out of the locker room, the CourtKings struggled to find shots to fall from anywhere on the court. Despite three point baskets by Hicks, Kelly, Johnson, and Tyner, only a small handful of baskets found the netting in the third quarter. As the Kings struggled to score, the Elite pushed the momentum in their favor to extend their lead even further. FreeQuincy Bey scored eight points in the paint as A.J. Wilson sank two baskets from deep to cap a 32-19 run in the third period.
Entering the final quarter of play, the Elite continued to push their offense up the court into successful shots both inside and outside the lane. Using defensive rebounds and full court passes, Sabah was able to score 12 of this 13 fourth quarter points directly under the baskets as part of his game with 25 points on the night. Despite being down as much as 20 point in the middle of the period, the CourtKings fought hard to stay within striking distance. High pressure defense and Elite turnovers allowed the CourtKings to cut the lead down to single digits as the final minutes ticked away. However, even with good shots from deep and under the basket, the CourtKings could not overcome the quick speed and passing of T.C. Elite falling by a final score of 106-97. Hicks lead the team with 20 points, seven rebounds, and four assists, while Kelly scored 15, Tyner sank 11, and James added 10 points. The loss now snaps the CourtKings league record 38-game winning streak against MBL opponents, a streak dating back to July of the inaugural MBL season of 2016.
Next up for the Cedar Valley will be another two game weekend series. The CourtKings will return home Saturday night on June 23 at 7:30pm at the Cedar Valley SportsPlex against the Minnesota Lakers, and then head back up to the Twin Cities to take on the Minnesota Broncos in Anoka at 4:00pm.