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Playoff seeds at stake on crucial weekend slate

By Craig Fata, 03/17/16, 1:45PM CDT


Two teams fight for top spot, others hope to stay alive


March 17, 2016

ST. LOUIS – With the playoff race still unsettled, the Midwest Professional Basketball Association is in for a pretty exciting weekend, with five games in two days, and six of the league’s seven teams in action.

Things get started Saturday with a double-header at Chicago’s Kroc Center, as the Chicago Blues host the St. Louis RiverSharks in the first game of the twin bill. Both the Blues and RiverSharks are in solid position to make the four-team playoff field, but either one could move up in the seedings or fall out all together.

St. Louis (7-4) comes in on a four-game winning streak, not counting last Friday’s interrupted affair with the Windy City Groove, the final :36.4 of which will be played on March 25 in St. Louis. Most Valuable Player candidate Bruce Massey leads the RiverSharks at 21.8 points per game on 43% shooting from three-point range. He also pulls down 7.7 rebounds per game and averages 2.5 steals. Aaron Williams is among the league’s leading rebounders at 8.0 per contest.

The Blues (7-5) have won six of their last eight, and despite a hiccup Monday against the Champaign Swarm, can be one of those teams no one wants to face in the playoffs. Chicago has six players scoring in double figures, led by sharpshooter Tremell Adams at 16.0 points per game. Al Rapier leads the Blues in rebounding at 7.9 per game to go along with his 12.5 points. And the duo of Shakir Johnson and Jakeem Hill have blocked a total of 36 shots on the season—most of them seemingly in the past three games.

The second game in Chicago on Saturday features the Windy City Groove (8-4), trying regain the top overall seed, taking on the Champaign Swarm (4-10). Windy City has lost three in a row, but is capable of riding a winning streak straight to the championship game. Dion Cooksey leads the Groove at 22.7 points per game and is second in the league at 4.8 assists per game.

Champaign, the only team eliminated from playoff contention, won its home finale Monday against Chicago, and is led by Michael Rogers at 19.5 points per game. Jonathan Mills, since joining the Swarm in February, has averaged 14.7 points and 10.7 rebounds per game for the defending champions.

Saturday’s third game will see the Lima Express, fighting for a playoff spot at 4-8, travel to Pontiac to take on the league-leading 66ers (10-4). The hard-luck Express dropped another heartbreaker last weekend 119-118 to the 66ers in Lima. The loss was Lima’s second in a row by one point, and its last three losses have come at the hands of the top two teams in the league by a total of six points.

Kyle Meyer leads Lima at 22.8 points and 6.8 rebounds per game, while Cordaryl Ballard averages 20.6 points and a league-leading 5.4 assists per game.

Pontiac has won seven of its last eight and is in prime position to secure the number one overall playoff seed. The 66ers have eight players averaging in double-figures in scoring, led by MVP candidate Alfonzo Houston at 26.5 points per game. Newcomer Alex Marzette is averaging 18.0 points and 8.2 rebounds over four games for Pontiac, while Marcus Hammonds is among the league’s leaders in all rebounding categories.

On Sunday, the Swarm will take on the Express for Lima’s 2016 home finale, and the 66ers will host the Blues in Pontiac.

All MPBA games can be seen in high definition, live and free of charge on the league’s broadcast portal,