April 1, 2016
PONTIAC, Ill. – The Pontiac 66ers broke open an intense, back-and-forth game late, overcoming a double-digit deficit to defeat the Lima Express 104-97 in Friday’s second semifinal of the Midwest Professional Basketball Association playoffs.
The contest started slowly without any scoring for the first two minutes, but turned into a game of runs as Pontiac jumped out to a 7-0 lead over the next 75 seconds to force Lima into calling its first time out, after which the Express scored the next five points to shrink the deficit to 7-5.
The 66ers answered with an 8-1 run and kept the Express at arm’s reach, but Lima again countered and ended the first quarter with a 24-22 lead seconds before the horn.
The Express momentum carried into the second period as they scored the first six points after resuming action for a 30-22 lead and forcing the 66ers to spend their first time out two and a half minutes into the quarter. After Lima pushed the advantage to 10 points, Pontiac surged back to within 38-34 with 4:38 before intermission to force an Express time out.
A thunderous dunk by league MVP Alfonzo Houston seconds after resuming play cut the 66ers deficit to 38-36, but the teams traded baskets for the next three minutes until Pontiac cut the margin to 44-43 with under 90 seconds remaining. A three-pointer from Khion Sankey from the top of the key with 56.5 seconds remaining regained the lead for Pontiac at 46-44. A Kyle Meyer drive tied the affair with 10 seconds remaining, but Houston drained a jumper with five seconds left to give Pontiac a 48-46 halftime lead.
The game’s back-and-forth nature continued in the third quarter, but Lima gradually increased the lead in the final minute at 79-68, where the score remained heading into the fourth period.
The teams played on even terms for the first six minutes of the final stanza until Pontiac made a run on a pair of Sankey threes and drives by Houston and Marcus Hammonds to cut the Lima lead to 92-89 with 4:51 left. The 66ers cut the contest to 92-90 two minutes later, then gained their first lead of the quarter at 95-94 with two minutes remaining on a Hammonds drive.
Lima tied the game on a free throw with 1:13 left as Houston received his second technical foul of the game and was ejected, but Pontiac regained a 98-95 lead on a three-point play by Sankey with just under a minute left. A steal by Pontiac’s D’Mitri Riggs with 23.4 seconds followed by his free throw put the 66ers up 99-95, and the hosts put away the win at the free throw line.
Houston led the 66ers and all scorers with 29 points. The 66ers also received 19 from Hammonds, 17 from Alex Marzette, 15 from Sankey and 14 from Riggs. Express scoring leaders were Jody Hill with 28 points, Meyer with 20, Cordaryl Ballard with 19 and Westley Hinton with 11.
The 66ers will face the Chicago Blues for the MPBA championship on Saturday at 1:05 p.m. at Pontiac Township High School. Anyone with a ticket from Friday’s semifinals will be admitted free. MPBA staff and coaches will wear blue for Autism Awareness Day. The game can be viewed live for free in HD on MPBA.tv.