Kevin Bloodsaw raised his fists in triumph, then leaped onto the press table three feet above the gymnasium floor. Truth is, he was a lot higher than that.
The 39-year-old and the team he plays for have each been waiting seven years for their first International Basketball League championship.
When the Vancouver Volcanoes beat the Edmonton Energy 124-116 in the league’s title game Sunday, the surrounding euphoria in the O’Connell Sports Center at Clark College was not to be suppressed.
“I can’t even describe it. This is all we worked hard for at the beginning of the season,” said Bloodsaw, who then picked up his 4-year-old son Devin and said to him, “we did it.” “This is what I came here for, to bring a championship to Vancouver.”
Volcanoes majority owner/coach Bryan Hunter was equally driven to capture a title. Hunter bought the team five years ago and vividly remembers Vancouver’s four consecutive losses in the semifinals heading into this postseason.
A brilliant start to this year was overshadowed by five losses in seven games as the playoff neared, along with Hunter having to dismiss players who interfered with the Volcanoes’ cohesiveness. But considering Vancouver (15-6) ended the season on a five-game winning streak, it’s safe to assume the problems were sorted out.
“This is a culmination of everything single thing we’ve gone through this whole season. The long hours, the sweat, the no pay and going through adversity,” Hunter said. “Everyone on our team played their hearts out.
And against the Energy, they had to.
Edmonton (15-7) featured two 6-11 centers in Lee Scruggs and Jeffrey Ferguson. It also boasted guard Rashaun Broadus, who entered the game averaging 15.9 points and a league-leading 9.0 assists per game.
He only had four assists Sunday, but seeing as how he finished with a game-high 36 points, passing didn’t necessarily seem like his best option.
Broadus paced the Energy to a 41-32 lead midway through the second quarter. Then, the Volcanoes went on a 16-1 run, and after ending the first half up 51-49, never trailed again.
Devin Uskoski led the Volcanoes with 25 points and 14 rebounds. Jake Carlisle, who was selected as the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, added 23 points and 11 rebounds.
Vancouver, which finished the year 12-0 on its home floor, stretched its lead to as much as 16 points when Durrell Nevels knocked down a field goal midway through the second quarter. And while Edmonton did climb to within eight with two minutes to go, a late 3-point play by Nevels sealed the win.
“This was such a team effort. All the great, dirty things the guys is what got this for us,” said Carlisle. “This is a real high level. The longer you play — I’m playing brain basketball instead of athletic basketball. At one point this team was kind of falling apart, but we got it together. This is one of the top moments in my athletic career.”
Matt Calkins can be contacted at 360-735-4528 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
VANCOUVER VOLCANOES 124, EDMONTON ENERGY 116
EDMONTON (15-7) — Nash 4-8 4-4 14, Parker 1-1 0-0 2, W.Broadus 8-12 4-5 25, Gottselig 1-3 0-0 2, LaBranche 0-1 1-1 1, Crawford 1-2 0-0 2, Ferguson 1-3 4-4 6, Scruggs 4-14 3-5 12, Patrick 1-2 0-0 3, Callier 5-13 1-2 13, R.Broadus 11-19 12-14 36. Totals 37-78 12-14 36.
VANCOUVER (15-6) — Lechtenberg 0-0 0-0 0, Bloodsaw 3-6 6-6 12, Williams 2-3 1-1 5, Tarver 2-7 0-0 4, Hartman 4-6 0-1 10, White 0-0 0-0 0, Blackledge 4-16 3-4 12, Murray 4-13 4-7 15, Uskoski 9-14 5-9 25, Carlisle 7-11 8-12 23, Nevels 6-9 4-7 16. Totals 42-86 31-47 124.
Edmonton 21 28 25 42—116
Vancouver 21 30 37 36—124