Volcanoes reach title game

Vancouver slams Bellingham in semifinals, 105-96

By Matt Calkins, Columbian Sports Reporter

Published:

 
photoVancouver Volcanoes Lawrence Blackledge slams on the Bellingham Slam defenders during the semifinal round of the IBL Playoffs at Clark College on Saturday.

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IF YOU GO

International Basketball League Championship game: Vancouver Volcanoes (14-6) vs. Edmonton Energy (15-6), 1 p.m. today at O'Connell Center, Clark College.

Tickets: $10.

photoVancouver’s Lawrence Blackledge, right, shoots over two Bellingham Slam defenders during Saturday’s semifinal of the International Basketball League playoffs at Clark College.

(/The Columbian)

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The fireworks may come a day early for the Vancouver Volcanoes.

After stampeding through the first two rounds of the International Basketball League playoffs, they now find themselves one win away from their first championship, and haven’t shown too many signs of vulnerability.

Just look to Saturday’s 105-96 victory over the top-seeded Bellingham Slam at the O’Connell Sports Center for proof.

The Volcanoes entered the semifinal contest after surviving the Portland Chinooks 105-98 Friday in a game that nearly got away from them. But they were supposed to win that one.

The seedings said Saturday would yield a different result, but Vancouver (14-6) apparently neglected to take notice.

The teams seemed evenly matched in the early going, with the score tied at 25-25 at the end of the first quarter. However, as the game progressed, so did the Volcanoes’ lead — albeit slowly.

By halftime they led Bellingham (14-7) 45-42. At the end of the third quarter, they were up 69-64.

Midway through the fourth? They had established a 16-point lead.

Due to the holiday weekend, the Volcanoes bench was a bit thin, but the players on the floor more than made up for it.

Even if they almost didn’t make it to the floor.

Andre Murray, the Volcanoes’ leading scorer, nearly sat out due to a back spasm he suffered after landing awkwardly Friday. Instead, he gave Vancouver 18 points in 35 minutes.

“I wasn’t going to play, but I knew how much this meant to the community and to the fans,” said Murray, adding that he felt “horrible,” after the game. “I couldn’t go out like that.”

The bigger story may have been Alex Hartman, who was coming off a disappointing Friday performance in which he scored just four points on 1 of 4 shooting. Saturday he came off the bench to score a team-high 22 points while going 8 for 13 from the field and 6 for 9 from 3-point distance. He also provided the game’s punctuation mark with an alley-oop jam on a pass from Antwan Williams that put Vancouver up 16.

“I came to the gym earlier to get some shots up. I wasn’t happy with how I played (Friday),” said Hartman whose team went 3-2 against Bellingham this year. “I just needed to calm down.”

Volcanoes coach/co-owner Bryan Hunter wasn’t so calm after the game. Vancouver had lost to the eventual champion in the semifinals each of the past for years, so his enthusiasm was understandable.

The Volcanoes are now 11-0 at home this year, and will meet the second-seeded Edmonton Energy in today’s final at 1 p.m. Edmonton defeated the Albany Legends of New York, 114-107 in the first semifinal.

Perhaps Hunter said it best.

“One more.”

VANCOUVER VOLCANOES 105, BELLINGHAM SLAM 96

BELLINGHAM (14-6) — Anderson 4-14 1-1 9, Jac.Stevenson 8-13 3-4 19, Gram 4-8 0-0 9, Webb 0-2 2-2 2, Jar.Stevenson 1-1 0-0 3, Amaya 5-15 0-0 11, Duty 3-7 2-2 8, Diggs 3-9 5-6 12, Henne 2-5 5-6 9, Pool 3-8 2-3 8, Hafford 2-8 2-2 6. Totals 35-90 22-26 96.

VANCOUVER (14-6) — Lechtenberg 1-2 0-0 3, Bloodsaw 0-1 0-0 0, Williams 1-3 0-0 3, Tarver 3-7 4-6 10, Hartman 8-13 0-0 22, Blackledge 4-14 1-1 9, Murray 3-4 9-12 18, Uskoski 7-16 1-4 16, Carlisle 8-11 2-2 18, Nevels 3-8 0-0 6. Totals 38-79 17-25 105.

Bellingham 25 17 22 32— 96

Vancouver 25 20 24 36—105