February 19, 2016
ST. LOUIS – The Midwest Professional Basketball Association returns to St. Louis for the first time in the 2016 season, as both St. Louis clubs have their home openers this weekend.
The Gateway Steam and St. Louis RiverSharks open MPBA play at Emerson Performance Center at Harris-Stowe State University with a 7:05 p.m. CT game Saturday. The RiverSharks (3-2) come into the game off of their second loss on the season, falling in a heartbreaker last weekend to the Pontiac 66ers 114-111.
2015 MPBA Most Valuable Player Justin Bocot leads the RiverSharks and the league with a 28.2 points-per-game scoring average. Newcomer Jaylen Fulton is averaging 17.5 points per game since joining St. Louis on February 6.
Gateway, after starting off the season with three straight losses, has won its last two in a row. Lonnel Johnson leads the Steam with 17.6 points per game, while Connell Crossland averages 16.0 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. The Steam were buoyed in their win against Champaign last weekend by the addition of former Virginia Tech standout C.J. Barksdale, who scored 20 points, grabbed 10 rebounds, dished out five assists and blocked three shots against the Swarm. But Barksdale will not play this weekend for the Steam, as he had to return home to Virginia due to a family emergency.
On Sunday, in the first of three MPBA games that day, the RiverSharks will host the Champaign Swarm. The Swarm (1-7) won their only game of the season against St. Louis on January 24, in a rematch of the 2015 MPBA Championship game.
The Swarm will feature a new coach, Daniel Ruffin, a former Bradley University standout who led the Braves to an improbable run to the Sweet 16 in 2007. MVP candidate Michael Rogers leads Champaign with a 26.6 per-game scoring average. And with the recent signing of Robert Broughton, the Swarm now have four starters back from their 2015 championship team. Broughton scored 17 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in his debut against Gateway last week.
Sunday’s second game will see the Chicago Blues hosting the Lima Express at the Kroc Center in Chicago. The Blues (4-4), after winning three straight, fell to the Windy City Groove last Sunday.
Ryan Jackson leads the Blues, scoring 17.2 points per game. He is one of seven Blues players scoring in double figures. Al Rapier is also having an outstanding season for Chicago, averaging 14.2 points and 8.5 rebounds per game.
Lima (3-4) has been idle since dropping a tough one to the Blues in Chicago on February 6, 120-116. Cordaryl Ballard, another MVP candidate, leads the Express with a 26.3 per-game scoring average, while pulling down 5.8 rebounds and dishing out 4.7 assists per game. Kyle Meyer also averages more than 20 points per game (22.2), while guard Johnny Elliot leads the team in rebounding at 7.8 per game.
Sunday’s final game will see the Steam hosting the Pontiac 66ers (5-3). The league’s reigning Player of the Week, Alfonzo Houston, leads Pontiac with 26.6 points per game. Houston has scored 29 or more points in his last five straight games. Newcomers Khion Sankey and Blake Burgess each made an impact in their debuts last weekend against St. Louis, with Sankey scoring 16 points and grabbing eight rebounds, and Burgess scoring 15. Marcus Hammonds is the team’s leading rebounder at 7.5 per game.
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