With a revamped roster, the Vancouver Volcanoes will need more than just two games into the International Basketball League season to mesh.
However on Sunday, the Volcanoes united long enough to earn their first win of the season.
Vancouver defeated the IBL reigning champion Bellingham Slam, 94-86, in its home opener at the O’Connell Sports Complex at Clark College. By avenging the season-opening loss in Bellingham on Friday night, the Volcanoes improve to 1-1.
Point guard Josh Tarver scored 16 points and although Vancouver’s free-throw shooting had been a problem throughout the game, his pair gave the Volcanoes the lasting lead with 2:08 remaining in the game.
“I couldn’t hit any shots,” Tarver complained, but actually he was a rare Volcano player who finished with a decent field-goal percentage (6 of 12 for 50 percent). “But free throws got to go down in clutch time.”
Vancouver coach Joe Navarro seemed surprised that his “good shooting team” only connected on 34.3 percent from the floor, missed 16 of 19 3-point attempts and blew 20 free-throw opportunities. However, Bellingham’s smallish roster might have led to the Volcanoes’ shooting woes.
“It’s hard to match up with Bellingham,” Navarro said.
So, the Volcanoes had to sit their new starting 7-foot center Gjio Bain and abandon big lineups, which might have led to easier shots in the half court. When Vancouver regrouped from a 10-point first-quarter deficit, it did so behind the guard play. Although Andre Murray left four points at the free-throw line early in the second quarter — he went 1 for 5 in the opening two minutes — his jump shooting near the end propelled Vancouver to the 46-42 halftime edge.
The teams played even through the third quarter to a 66-66 tie before Bellingham opened up a lead and held it for more than half of the final period. Then, newly acquired guard Paul Hafford — who finished with 16 points — scored on a reverse layup to pull Vancouver to within one point. Tarver, freed by a high screen, got inside and tied the game at 82-82 at the 3:35 mark.
After Tarver’s free throws unknotted the score, 6-7 forward Alex Hartman extended the lead to four points with 49 seconds remaining, then blocked a Bellingham shot at the other end. Hartman finished with 11 points and forward Chehalis Tapscott contributed 13 points and 12 rebounds. Murray scored 15 and also chipped in three assists.
The Volcanoes will return to O’Connell next Saturday to play the Portland Chinooks, however in Navarro’s eyes, it might take longer than a week for the team to fully come together.
“Hopefully, (by) the playoffs,” Navarro said.