Slam holds off late charge to win second consecutive IBL Championship
PORTLAND, Ore. – The Bellingham Slam held off a furious comeback from the Vancouver Volcanoes as they captured the 2013 International Basketball League championship, 117-114, on Friday at Eastmoreland Court.
The Slam opened the game on fire, bolting out to a 16-5 lead just five minutes into the game, and led 29-16 after the first quarter.
After Bellingham scored the first three baskets of the second quarter to go up 19, Vancouver went on a 15-2 run buoyed by back-to-back three-pointers by guard Paul Hafford to trim the deficit to six, at 37-31.
The long-range shooting of Hafford would be a theme of the night as his shot largely kept Vancouver in the ballgame. But the Slam went into halftime with all the momentum and a 57-40 lead after forward Chas Kok drilled a buzzer-beating shot from just inside half court.
The Slam held serve in the third quarter to take a 90-75 lead into the fourth, but aggressive play by the Volcanoes and missed opportunities at the free throw line by the Slam allowed Vancouver to creep back into the game.
With Bellingham still leading by 15, at 115-100 with 3:08 left following a Rico Wilkins trey, Hafford nailed two more threes on consecutive possessions to pull the Volcanoes within 9.
Bellingham came up empty on their next two possessions and Vancouver took advantage with an and-one play by guard Garret Sim to narrow the gap to 6, at 115-109 with 1:30 left.
Guard Drew Ready made one of two free throws the next trip down, before Sim and Hafford each hit a two and three, respectively on their next two possessions sandwiched between a pair of free throw misses by Bellingham with under a minute to play to close within two, at 116-114.
Ready connected on one more free throw to go up by three with under 30 seconds to play, before Vancouver’s Josh Tarver missed a game-tying three attempt that appeared to spell the end of their comeback try. But the Slam again came up empty on two free throw tries to give Vancouver a glimmer of hope with 2 seconds left. The Volcanoes drew up a great play to give Hafford a solid look as time expired but it hit the front rim.
Guard Jacob Stevenson led the Slam with 28 points, while Wilkins finished with 27 on 5-of-7 shooting from downtown. But game Most Valuable Player honors went to center Blake Poole who posted a double-double with 21 points and 12 rebounds.
Forward Chehales Tapscott led Vancouver’s losing effort with 25 points and 13 rebounds, while Hafford put in 21 on 6-of-9 three-point shooting.
The victory gives the Slam their second consecutive IBL title and third overall for the organization.
For more information, contact the Slam at (360) 734-SLAM or visit their website at www.bellinghamslam.com.