Bellingham and Portland Set to Meet in 2012 IBL Championship GameJuly 8, 2012 - International Basketball League (IBL) Jersey G-Force
Not only will the Slam be playing the championship game on their home floor, where they have historically won over 86 percent of their games, they will also be riding a streak that has seen the home team in the title game come out victorious every season since the IBL was founded in 2005. Bellingham is already included once in that streak, having won the league championship over the Elkhart Express, in front of a sold-out Whatcom Pavilion in 2008.
Further, the Portland Chinooks have never beaten the Slam at Whatcom Pavilion, going winless in three tries since 2008. This season, the two teams faced either other twice, splitting the series with home wins by each team. The Slam won 112-100 in Bellingham on April 27, while the Chinooks prevailed 132-129 on June 30 at Portland. In all, the Slam hold a 9-2 lifetime series advantage.
Sunday's game will mark the third title game appearance for Bellingham. After 2008's triumph, the Slam returned to the championship in 2010, but had to travel to Albany, New York, where they lost 126-111 in a memorable game at the historic Washington Avenue Armory.
The top-seeded Slam reached this year's championship game by dispatching the 2011 IBL Champion Vancouver Volcanoes on Friday, 127-98, in a semi-final game. The Slam earned a bye into the semi-finals by finishing the regular season with a league-best 15-3 record.
Portland advanced to the final thanks to a 118-113 win over the Olympia Reign on Friday. Portland entered the playoffs as the #2 seeded team with a 14-4 record and also earned a first round bye. The game will be the team's second appearance in the final, the other coming in 2007 when they lost to the Elkhart Express, who won their second of back-to-back championships.
This season Bellingham is being led by a quartet of veterans. Guards Paul Hafford and Morris Anderson are both enjoying their best seasons in Slam uniforms, with Hafford leading the team in scoring with 23.6 points per game and Anderson not far behind with 21.1 per game. Both have championship game experience, with Hafford being named co-Most Valuable Player of the 2008 title game, and Anderson starting for the Slam in 2010 when they advanced to the final in New York.
Center Blake Poole is also impressing in his second season in the Slam frontcourt, with averages of 18.6 points and 13.4 rebounds per game. He finished with double-doubles in 13 of the Slam's 18 games during the regular season, and added 25 points and 19 rebounds in Friday's semi-final win over Vancouver. Veteran guard Jacob Stevenson has also come on strong for the Slam late in the season, boosting his scoring average to 16.9 points per game after a slow start to the year.
A pleasant surprise this season has been the play of guard Drew Ready, who has transformed from a little-used bench player last season to a starter in 2012 making big plays. On Friday, he led the Slam in scoring with 26 points and also added 9 rebounds and 6 assists. On the season, Ready is averaging 13.6 points per game.
"Portlandis big, but every team we play is big. If we're active and playing good defense, we can be successful as a small team," said Bellingham coach Rob Ridnour when asked about his outlook for Sunday's game. "They're an athletic team from top to bottom. We'll just have to bring energy, attack them, and keep them off the glass."
On the other side of the court, Portland comes into the championship game with an impressive roster and a ten-game winning streak. Veteran IBL forward David Lucas ranks second among active players in all-time scoring, behind the Slam's Stevenson, and continues to be an offensive catalyst. He leads Portland in scoring at 26.4 points per game and added 22 in their semi-final win over the Olympia Reign. Guard Ryan Scott is in his first season with the team and enjoyed an outstanding game versus Olympia, leading all scorers with 31 points, well above his season average of 12.5 per game.
Inside, 6-foot-9 forward Jared Cunningham and 7-foot center Joe Wolfinger could pose some problems for the smaller Slam. Both are averaging over 20 points per game and are among Portland's rebounding leaders with 11.4 and 9.0 boards per game, respectively.
"We are not afraid to play against anyone with the team we have. Our advantage is we are bigger and just as athletic, and we will use size to our advantage, commented Portland Head Coach Terrance Dickens. "I've come close to winning an IBL Championship twice, so I am hoping three times is the charm."
"You have to give it up for Bellingham, they have been number one all the way through the season, they play so well together and they play hard," Dickens observed of the host Slam.
Sunday's title game tips off at 5 p.m.at Whatcom Pavilion in Bellingham. The game will be broadcast locally on KPUG 1170-AM and online at www.kpug1170.com. A live online video stream will also be available through the IBL's website at www.ibl.com.
Advance tickets for the game may be purchased by phone at (360) 734-SLAM or online at www.bellinghamslam.com. Tickets may also be purchased at the Whatcom Pavilion box office starting at 3 p.m.Sunday. Doors to the game will open at 4 p.m.
For more information on the IBL Playoffs, visit the league's website at www.ibl.com.
International Basketball League Stories from July 8, 2012
- Slam Blow Past Chinooks, 142-109 to Win IBL Championship - Bellingham Slam
- Bellingham and Portland Set to Meet in 2012 IBL Championship Game - Jersey G-Force
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