Ex-Vikings again key to Bellingham Slam championship run
July 12, 2010
BELLINGHAM, Wash. - The Bellingham Slam are making their second appearance in the International Basketball League championship game in three seasons Friday at Albany, New York, and former Western Washington University players have played a large role in getting the team there on both occasions.
In 2008, when the Slam defeated the Elkhart Express in the IBL title game, the Slam roster featured six ex-Vikings. Four of Bellingham's top five scorers that season hailed from WWU, led by guard Ryan Diggs and his 25.2 points per game scoring average. Forward Tyler Amaya averaged 21.8 points and a team-leading 10.2 rebounds per game, and was also named co-MVP of the championship contest. Guard Jacob Stevenson and forward Lukas Henne, then a rookie, also enjoyed fine seasons, averaging 19.5 and 17.1 points per game, respectively. Sparked by the mid-season addition of Amaya following a stint in Germany, the collection of NCAA Division II standouts went on to win 17 of their last 19 games in 2008, and upset an Elkhart team in the championship that boasted a lineup stacked with Division I players.
This season is shaping up in similar fashion for the Slam. The team's record stands at 15-7 after winning eight of its last 10 games. The roster features eight former Vikings, including three from the 2009-10 squad that reached the semifinals of the NCAA II West Regional. Stevenson, who has been a part of the Slam since the team first began play in 2005, is enjoying a larger role than ever, ranking first on the team and fourth in the IBL with a scoring output of 25.8 points per game. After missing four games late in the season with an ankle injury, Diggs has come back and ranks third on the team in scoring with 16.4 points per game. Guard Morris Anderson has been one of the league's best rookies, averaging 12.9 points, a team-leading 6.8 assists and 5.1 rebounds. His 136 total assists ranks fourth in the league and first among rookies. Guard Derrick Webb has proven to be a valuable asset off the bench for Bellingham, averaging 17.8 points in his last four games.
The Slam's opponent in the championship game, the Albany Legends, are a first-year team but enter the game with the IBL's best record at 18-3, and boast a roster with seven former NCAA I athletes. They are led by ex-NBA and Cincinnati guard Kenny Satterfield, who comes in averaging 19.0 points and 8.2 assists. Two other key contributors are forward Gordon Klaiber, who leads the team with 19.5 points per game, and center DeAndre Thomas, who at 6-foot-8 and 300 pounds, is averaging 16.8 points and 8.8 rebounds and provides an imposing presence in the post for the Legends.
KBAI AM 930 will provide live radio coverage of the title contest, beginning at 4:45 p.m. PT. An internet stream of the broadcast is also available at www.930kbai.com.
For more information, contact the Slam at (360) 734-SLAM or visit their website at www.bellinghamslam.com.
BELLINGHAM SLAM: Slam excited to bring second IBL title home from New York
BEN FLETCHER - THE BELLINGHAM HERALD
It's not Madison Square Garden, but come Friday, July 16, Bellingham Slam players will still be playing for the International Basketball League championship across the country in the nation's hotbed for basketball.
The excitement brewing over that fact has helped allay concerns that Bellingham must beat the Albany Legends on their home court to win its second IBL title in three years.
The game is set for 5 p.m. on Friday, July 16, at the Washington Avenue Armory. Locally, people can follow the game on 930 KBAI.
"I think it's going to be fun," Bellingham coach Rob Ridnour said in a phone interview moments after landing on a team flight. "You don't get to go to New York very often to play basketball games."
This one's for all the marbles, too. That's not lost on guys like Jacob Stevenson, a former Western Washington University basketball star who lit the IBL up this year for 25.8 points per game, 7.4 rebounds and 6.7 assists. He's joined by several teammates who teamed to win the IBL championship with the Slam in 2008.
"I think everybody's feeling pretty good," Stevenson said. "We know we have a tough task ahead of us. ... But I think we're feeling pretty confident and playing well right now."
How the players feel following a coast-to-coast flight is probably the Slam's biggest concern. The team left Wednesday, July 14, so players will have time to get a practice in and let their legs acclimate to the time change.
Against Albany, Bellingham will have to find a way to stop Kenny Satterfield, a former NBA pro who played for the Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets and Philadelphia 76ers and averaged 19.0 points per contest during the IBL season.
The top-seeded Legends (18-3) are certainly a team that can fill a stat sheet, with Gordon Klaiber leading the team at almost 20 ppg. and 300-pound center DeAndre Thomas logging 16.8 ppg. and 8.8 rpg.
"Their eight top scorers are all in double figures so they've got great balance," Ridnour said.
The Slam's counter to that will likely be a team effort. Bellingham is playing well at the right time, winning two elimination playoff games to reach the final. Big man Lucas Henna has come on down the stretch, Ridnour said, and players like Paul Hafford (17.4 ppg.), and Ryan Diggs (16.4 ppg.) are playing well.
"I think Rob's just letting us play," Stevenson said of his coach. "We finally gelled as team at the end of the season."
The Slam finished the year 15-7. But the team won eight of its final 10 games, and six of Bellingham's seven losses on the year came down to a single possession.
It's generated a feeling similar to 2008, when the Slam, with mostly Division II players - including several from Western - upset Elkhart's roster of Division I talent to win the IBL championship. This year, Ridnour said it took some time for the Slam to integrate with newer players, like Morris Anderson (12.9 ppg.), Derrick Webb and Zach Bruce, all standouts who combined to lead the 2010 Vikings basketball team to within a game of the regional finals.
"Sometimes it happens at the beginning of the year, sometimes it happens at the end of the year," Ridnour said of his team coming together.
It has Stevenson pretty geeked about taking the court against Albany. The 30-year-old has refashioned his game since starring for Western with his brother Jared, who also plays for the Slam. He said his fitness level is close to his college playing days, and that he's learned to effectively use the 15-20 pounds he's added to his frame since.
"I've learned how to play at a heavier weight, where I'm not doing the things I was doing in college," Jacob Stevenson said. "More posting up and some different things that don't require as much athleticism."
Stevenson said players were excited as the team boarded a 6:30 a.m. flight for New York on Wednesday, his own girlfriend noticing he was a bit "hyper." But a trip across country isn't the only thing they're excited about.
"It definitely feels like if we play hard and to our abilities we can win this thing," Stevenson said.
IBL BASKETBALL: Slam fall to Albany in IBL championship game
The Bellingham Slam's attempt at a second International Basketball League championship came up short on Friday, July 16.
The Slam lost to the Albany Legends 126-111 at Albany, N.Y., in the IBL Championship game.
Bellingham led by two points after the first quarter at 26-24, and was down by three points at halftime as Albany led 48-45.
Albany slowly put the game away in the second half, and iced it with a nine-point fourth quarter advantage.
Albany was led by a game-high of 29 points by Kenny Satterfield, who was also 11 for 11 from the free throw line.
Bellingham was outrebounded in the game 62-39. Albany's DeAndre Thomas, who scored 21 points, also pulled down a game-high 19 rebounds.
Bellingham shot 45 percent compared to Albany's 52 percent, and Albany's bench outscored Bellingham 78-42 in the game.
Bellingham, which finished the season 15-8, won its first IBL crown in 2008.
Albany finished its season 19-3.
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