The Bellingham Slam staved off a furious final rally by the Vancouver Volcanoes to capture an International Basketball League championship with a 117-114 win Friday, July 5, at Eastmoreland Court in Portland, Ore.
The win gives Bellingham back-to-back IBL titles. It's the Slam's third title in franchise history. They also won a championship in 2008.
Center Blake Poole earned Most Valuable Player honors, pouring in 21 points while grabbing 12 rebounds. Longtime guard Jacob Stevenson scored a team-high 28 points and Rico Wilkins, who won a national title with Western Washington University in 2012, scored 27 points on 5 of 7 3-point shooting.
"It means a lot," said coach Rob Ridnour of winning back-to-back titles in a phone interview. "Anytime you can win a title in any organization is a good thing and we got three now. That kind of gives you an idea of the organization and the players we get."
Bellingham took a commanding 16-5 early lead and led 29-16 after the first quarter. Bellingham forward and Lynden grad Chas Kok drilled a near half court buzzer beater to give the Slam a 57-40 advantage heading into halftime.
"We just talked about coming out and jumping on them early," Ridnour said.
The Slam were in control most of the second half until Vancouver put Bellingham's title hopes in jeopardy with a wild comeback in the final three minutes.
Leading 115-100 with 3:08 left, Vancouver's Paul Hafford connected on two 3s, cutting Bellingham's lead to nine. Vancouver made it 116-114 after a handful of Bellingham missed free throws, but Drew Ready made a free throw to extend the Slam's lead to three. Vancouver had a shot to tie at the buzzer, but a 3-point attempt bounced off the rim.
Ridnour praised the efforts of his entire team, but credited Stevenson, Wilkins and Poole for their tremendous efforts.
"Jacob in my opinion should have been the MVP of the IBL," Ridnour said. "He had an MVP game tonight, and Blake has been consistent all season. Rico really helped us tonight. He had some big shots, and anytime you get a trio like that, you can put numbers up and that makes you much more effective on the offensive and defensive end."
Reach ANDREW LANG at firstname.lastname@example.org or call ext. 862.