The Bellingham Slam has won its third straight International Basketball League (IBL) championship after putting up a dominant performance against the Vancouver Volcanoes.
The team won the game 143–126 at the O’Connell Sports Complex in Vancouver June 29 to take home their fourth overall IBL title win. With the win, the Slam becomes the first team in IBL history to win three league titles in a row.
Despite playing the championship game on the Volcanoes’ home floor, the Slam raced out to a 23–9 lead seven minutes into the game, thanks to hot shooting from veteran guard Jacob Stevenson who had three buckets in the early run.
With a double-digit lead quickly established, the Slam’s defense frustrated the Volcanoes throughout the first half. Bellingham
built their second quarter lead as high as 27, at 64–37, before Vancouver was able to mount a counter-offensive and trim the gap down to 12 at halftime for a score of 69–57.
Any thoughts of a second half miracle comeback by the Volcanoes were quashed early by a 13–2 run to start the half, which put the Slam up 82–59.
Vancouver’s offense started to click later in the third quarter, but Bellingham’s offense didn’t slow down, and the Volcanoes were unable to make much headway towards tying the game and taking the lead. A three-pointer by Slam guard Rico Wilkins to close the third quarter made the score 112–91.
In the fourth, the two sides traded multiple scores before a three-pointer from Vancouver guard Cory Largent trimmed the margin to 17, at 133–116, with under four minutes to play – too little, too late for a comeback. With the bench emptied, reserve guard Kosei Ban closed the game with a three-pointer from the corner before the Slam celebrated amidst confetti at center court.
Slam rookie forward Austin Bragg picked up the game’s Most Valuable Player honors thanks to a double-double of 27 points and a game-high 12 rebounds. His 27 points came from an efficient 9-for-10 showing from the floor.
Guard Morris Anderson also received serious consideration for MVP thanks to a team-high 31 points for Bellingham.
The league’s leading scorer Andre Murray led Vancouver with 31 points.
The Slam won its annual game at Blaine High School June 13, routing the Houston Strikers 155–116 and scoring a team-record 92 points in the second half alone.