March 4, 2016
ST. LOUIS – One thing has been settled so far in the 2016 Midwest Professional Basketball Association season: and that is nothing is settled. With the second-place Pontiac 66ers just 1.5 games behind the league-leading Windy City Groove, and just 2.5 games separating third place from seventh, the stretch run is shaping up to be a neck-and-neck affair, as only four teams will make the postseason.
This weekend marks the first time all seven teams will be in action in the same two-day stretch, with critical matchups between teams that will be fighting for their playoff lives over the next three weeks.
The action opens with a double-header Saturday at the Kroc Center in Chicago, as the 8-2 Groove try to rebound against the 5-4 St. Louis RiverSharks from an overtime loss Wednesday to Pontiac. St. Louis is coming off a Wednesday win over the Gateway Steam.
Dion Cooksey leads Chicago at 22.4 points and 4.7 assists per game, while six other Groove players average scoring in double figures. One of those is Isiah Martin (12.8), who leads the team in rebounding at 8.1 per contest. Newcomer Ray Miller is averaging 11.2 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in four games.
2015 MPBA Most Valuable Player Justin Bocot paces St. Louis, again with MVP-type numbers. He averages 25.9 points, 5.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game for the RiverSharks. Bruce Massey isn’t far behind, putting up 22.1 points and pulling down 7.8 rebounds per contest. Aaron Williams leads the ‘Sharks in rebounding at 7.9 per game.
Saturday’s second game features the suddenly dangerous Champaign Swarm (3-7) taking on the athletic Chicago Blues (5-4). Champaign has won two in a row since Daniel Ruffin took over as head coach.
Ryan Jackson and Tremell Adams lead the Blues at 17.2 and 17.1 points per game, respectively. Al Rapier pitches in 14.2 points and 8.5 rebounds per game for Chicago. Kansas All-American Sherron Collins is averaging 15.4 points, as a total of seven Blues score in double figures.
Aaron Weaver, since returning to the Swarm four games ago, leads Champaign in scoring at 24.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game. Michael Rogers has been among the league’s top performers since the start of the season, averaging 23.3 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. Two more newcomers have helped to make the Swarm dangerous—Jonathan Mills, averaging 18.5 points and 10.0 rebounds over two games, and 2015 championship contributor Robert Broughton, who, in three games, averages 12.0 points and 7.3 rebounds.
On Sunday, the streaky Gateway Steam (3-6) travel to Lima to take on the hard-luck Express (3-7). The Steam are in the midst of their second three-game losing streak this year—in between those, they won three in a row. Lima, meanwhile, has lost five straight, but none of those losses have been by more than nine points. Lima dropped a pair of games to first-place Windy City last weekend by a total of five points.
Kyle Meyer leads Lima with 22.2 points per game, and Jody Hill, in two games since returning to the Express from Iraq, is averaging 22.0. Cordaryl Ballard is right behind them at 21.8 points per game, and leads the MPBA with 5.2 assists per contest. Guard Johnny Elliot is the leading rebounder at 6.6 per game.
The versatile Connell Crossland leads the Steam at 17.2 points and 7.8 rebounds per game, while newcomer Anthony Jones has made an immediate contribution, averaging 17.5 points and 2.5 steals per game. Sharpshooting forward Brent Schuck is third in the MPBA in three-point percentage, hitting on 48.3% of his long-range attempts.
The final game of the weekend sees the 7-4 Pontiac 66ers hosting the Swarm, as Pontiac comes off a big overtime win Wednesday against the Groove. MPBA scoring leader Alfonzo Houston paces the 66ers at 27.3 points per game, one of seven Sixers scoring in double figures. Newcomers Khion Sankey and Alex Marzette both average close to 17 points and eight rebounds per game, while MPBA-leading rebounder Marcus Hammonds chips in 13.2 points per game.
Every MPBA game this weekend and all season long can be seen live and free of charge in high definition on the league’s broadcast portal, MPBA.tv. For more information on the MPBA, visit www.theMPBA.com, or follow on Facebook or Twitter.