The last time the Cedar Valley CourtKings took on the Minnesota Rangers, they used a nine point win to clinch the Western Conference title, and subsequently, the 2017 Midwest Basketball League championship. On Sunday night, under new ownership and a new name, the Minnesota Lakers came to the Cedar Valley SportsPlex and gave the two-time defending MBL champion CourtKings a challenge as they searched for their fourth win of the 2018 campaign.
Since joining as charter members of the MBL together in 2016, the CourtKings and Lakers have met seven times, with the CourtKings claiming victory in five of the seven meetings. In addition to meeting in last season’s conference final, the Cedar Valley won their first MBL championship over the then Rangers by a score of 108-98. Leading up to first tip, many believed the Lakers would be motivated more than ever to knock of their Northwest Division rival and end their 31 game winning streak against MBL opponents.
The early first quarter saw both teams trade baskets between Minnesota’s Kenny Bass and Dominique Dawson, and the CourtKing’s Brady Burford. As they would do for most of the game, the Lakers used their height and size to apply highly pressured defense to the CourtKings offense. This forced the CourtKings to take a number of quick shots without a great amount of ball movement. For the Lakers offense, their quick speed and intensity helped push them ahead early 31-25 after the first period.
Despite a strong start to the second quarter, the CourtKings continued to struggle against the Lakers fast paced attack and hard pressed defense, only being able to complete ten shots from the field, most of which came from outside the paint. Meanwhile, the Lakers offense seemingly rolled past the CourtKing defense laying in multiple layups in a row “They were getting all these points in the paint,” said head coach Michael Mohlis. “They got so many easy looks and shot a high percentage.” At the halftime break, the Lakers led by nine, 57-48.
“Stay relaxed. We’re down nine. We’re fine. Just chip away.” Those were Coach Mohlis’s halftime words to the team as they enter the locker room. “Coach Billy (Campbell) made an adjustment trying to help in the post more, because that’s where we were giving up points,” Mohlis added. As the second half began, halftime adjustments began to take effect. Through better ball movement, the CourtKings began to create better looks for shots to fall and slowly began to chip away at the Lakers lead. Multiple turnovers and fouls by Minnesota also helped the Cedar Valley earn more trips to the free throw line to cut into the deficit. An early 9-3 run to start the half helped propel the CourtKings momentum forward throughout the rest of the quarter and their first quarter ending lead at the end of the third, 91-84.
In the fourth, the CourtKings continued their strategy of strong ball movement as they worked to hold off the Lakers in the final minutes. “I think we were just a little flat footed in the first half,” said guard Anthony James. “We knew they were going to come out and give it their all, so we just made a couple adjustments and came out with loads of energy wanting to execute the game plan.” In what felt like a 180 degree flip from the first half, the CourtKings became the team that couldn’t be stopped offensively. With a strong pace set from the third period rally, the CourtKings used late turnovers by Minnesota to secure a 122-113 win to stay undefeated on the year, and win their 32nd consecutive game against MBL teams. James finished the night with 22 points, two rebounds, and three assists, while Burford ended the game with 27 points, 17 rebounds, and one assist.
The CourtKings will now hit the road for the first time this season as they travel to the Land of 10,000 Lakes to take on the Minnesota Broncos for the second time in three weeks. Tip off is scheduled for 7:00pm in Anoka, MN. Fans can catch the online radio broadcast at 6:45pm at cvcourtkings.com.
(*: indicates starter)