April 1, 2016
PONTIAC, Ill. – The Chicago Blues broke open a close game in the second quarter and maintained a double-digit lead for the duration of the contest in a 113-95 win over the Windy City Groove in the first semifinal of the Midwest Professional Basketball Association playoffs on Friday night.
The Groove took a 27-26 lead after a see-saw first period with a balanced attack and 47 percent shooting. The Blues shot 45 percent from inside the arc with Diante Watkins canning all four of his two-point attempts to lead all scorers with 8 points.
Chicago controlled the second quarter, outscoring the Groove 35-18 in the second 12 minutes. The Blues outscored Windy City 11-4 in the first four minutes of the second quarter to open up the game’s largest lead to that point at 37-31. The Blues equaled that margin twice more in the next two minutes before extending their advantage to 44-37 with 5:30 remaining before halftime, then built the lead to 47-39 with nearly four minutes on the the clock.
A rebound tip-in by Al Rapier put the Blues ahead 55-45 with under two minutes to play, and a fast-break layup and four free throws by Jarrell Thomas in the final minute extended the Blues’ advantage to 61-45 at halftime.
Thomas led all scorers with 14 points followed by 12 from Watkins to pace Chicago at the half, while Isiah Martin and Ray Miller paced Windy City with 8 points each.
The Blues stretched the margin to 74-52 in the first five minutes of the second half and bumped the lead back to 22 points three more times in the next three minutes.
Chicago maintained a swarming defense to push their lead to 85-60 with under three minutes before the quarter break before heading to the final period with an 89-69 advantage.
The Groove cut the deficit to 16 in the fourth quarter but came no closer as the teams played on mostly even terms in the final chapter.
Thomas led the Blues and all scorers with 26 points. For Chicago, Watkins contributed 17 points followed by Rapier with 16, Jakeem Hill and Tremell Adams each with 14 and Chris Elder with 11. Deveon Jenkins and Ray Miller paced the Groove with 17 points each while C.J. Hampton pitched in 16 and Martin added 11 points.
The Blues face the Pontiac 66ers-Lima Express winner in the MPBA title game on Saturday at 1 p.m. at Pontiac Township High School.