(Brianna Loper / The Columbian)
(Brianna Loper / The Columbian)
With another run for an International Basketball League championship coming up, the Vancouver Volcanoes put the finishing touches on the regular season on Sunday with a resounding win over the Japan Nippon Tornadoes, 154-127.
For the third time this season, the Volcanoes pummeled the Tornadoes as well as capped a perfect 11-0 home record at the O'Connell Center.
Vancouver (15-4) — the 2011 IBL champs — now prepares for a road playoff game against the Portland Chinooks at 2:30 p.m. July 4 at Eastmoreland Courts.
"Our real goal was to go undefeated the whole season," point guard Josh Tarver said. "We're not expecting to lose any (more) games."
Tarver paced Vancouver's second-highest scoring output with his first triple-double of the season, 14 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds. Forward Chehales Tapscott led the Volcanoes with 27 points, and also chipped in 12 rebounds, while guards Andre Murray and Mike Ward both scored 21 points.
Also, Paul Hafford fired away for six 3-pointers and finished with 24 points on 8-of-14 shooting.
"This was the first game in a month where we've had everybody," coach Joe Navarro said. "It's tough when you add guys late but everyone seems to like each other."
Vancouver's next opponent and playoff schedule had already been decided before Sunday evening and yet the Volcanoes still gave the Tornadoes their undivided attention.
The 6-foot-6 Tapscott started the game with an up-and-under move for a layup and the Tornadoes immediately followed up with a backcourt turnover forced by Tarver's defensive pressure. The Volcanoes needed only one pass during their next possession to cash in for another quick bucket — Murray finding Hafford in the left corner for a catch-and-shoot triple.
Hafford was just getting started as he connected on his first four 3-point shots for 12 points by the 8:12 mark of the first quarter.
Just as quick as Hafford's trigger, the Vancouver transition offense flowed at an unrelenting pace.
Although the league features a 22-second shot clock, Vancouver executed its sets in far less time and opened its first double-digit lead after a 3-on-1 fast break finished with a Murray alley-oop pass to Tapscott.
"Guys are hitting shots," Tarver said about the team's recent performances. "We've been gelling already. It's the perfect time to go into the playoffs."
Navarro wanted to use Sunday as an elevated practice session to prepare for the Chinooks, so he detailed how his team focused on defending ball screens and rebounding.
The focus on defense held the Tornadoes to 43-percent shooting but the Volcanoes barely outrebounded their opponent, 63-60. Also, Vancouver had difficulties in putting the game away early as the Tornadoes only trailed 40-37 in the second quarter.
However through the third quarter, Vancouver neutralized the high-scoring act from Tornadoes guard Michael Harvey — who finished with a game-high 45 points — with strong efforts from Tapscott (eight in the period) and Tarver (four points and four assists).
Before the midway point of the fourth quarter, the Volcanoes lead had expanded and starters began to take a seat.
Next stop: playoffs.
"Now we have to take that (effort) on the road," Tarver said.