The Vancouver Volcanoes stumbled early and the Bellingham Slam were red hot at the right time on Sunday night.
After an 18-9 start in the opening six minutes for Bellingham, the Slam eventually cruised to a 143-126 win over the Volcanoes in the IBL Championship game at Clark College, their third title in a row.
The Volcanoes were fresh off a semifinal victory on Saturday night against the Portland Chinooks and were riding a wave of confidence after beating the Slam last weekend in Bellingham for the first time in the team’s history.
But as soon as the game started, none of that proved to matter at all against Bellingham’s ball-movement and three-point accuracy.
The Slam went 19-42 from the 3-point line and totaled 26 assists as a team, using the screen as their primary action to get the Vancouver defense moving.
Vancouver, on the other hand, went 9-for-28 from the 3-point line and had just 16 assists. Bellingham scored 30 more points than the Volcanoes did from the 3-point line.
“They shot 19-for-42 from 3, it’s hard to guard teams when they are shooting it that well from the outside.” Volcanoes head coach Joe Navarro said. “We tried to go big inside but when they are counting by three and we’re counting by two, it’s tough.”
Bellingham game MVP Austin Bragg scored 27 points and 12 rebounds, providing a target for passes and shots at the rim.
Morris Anderson, who scored 31 points and three assists, and player/coach Tyler Amaya, who scored 28 points and six assists, took turns orchestrating from the perimeter for the Slam.
Either way, the Slam were scoring all night long and the Volcanoes couldn’t slow them down.
“We needed to do a better job of rotating out on their defenders. They just kept knocking down threes,” Navarro said.
For Vancouver, IBL MVP Andre Murray scored 31 points, 11 rebounds and four assists on 12-of-24 shooting, and Brian Morris had a solid game with 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting.
Vancouver’s other guards were unable to get loose outside of Murray, although Kevin “Pip” Bloodsaw provided a lift off the bench with his energy, 13 points and seven rebounds.
The Volcanoes also left a great deal of points at the line, going 17-for-29 with Murray going an unlikely 4-for-8 from the charity stripe.
While the disappointment of losing in the championship game is one of the most heartbreaking in sports, Navarro tipped his cap to the Slam and won’t wallow about what might have been.
“It’s not a series, it’s a one-game thing,” he said. “Bellingham is a great team. It makes it a little easier when you lose to a team that’s that good. They way they shoot it, what are we going to do?”