WATERLOO — The Cedar Valley CourtKings once again look like a team that is ready to occupy the throne within the Midwest Basketball League.
Waterloo mayor Quentin Hart was on hand for a pregame ring ceremony as the holdovers from last year’s successful CourtKings title defense were honored prior to Sunday night’s season opener against North Minneapolis.
Head coach Michael Mohlis filled his starting lineup with five players from that championship squad and Cedar Valley hit the court running en route to a convincing 144-97 victory inside the SportsPlex.
Raheem Tyner, Anthony James and Raijon Kelly each knocked down their first shot attempt of the season as the CourtKings’ starting five took just over three minutes to assemble a 10-point lead. That advantage ballooned to 19 by the end of the first quarter and 34 at halftime of this 47-point victory over North Minneapolis. The Eagles were playing their first game as a full member of the MBL after competing in the branding division last season.
“We started a veteran group, five guys that played last year on the championship team, and they started it off for us and got it going,” Mohlis said. “Second quarter was another big stretch where we started scoring the ball pretty well and got in a flow.”
Newcomer Brady Burford complemented the CourtKings starting five with 34 points off the bench. He showcased impressive footwork in the paint, an accurate mid-range jumper and hit 10 of 12 free throws.
“He brings toughness,” Mohlis said. “He puts his head down and he just plays. He’s going to be tough in this league because he can play inside and out.”
A Chicago native one year removed from college basketball at Williams Penn, Burford is looking forward to competing with the two-time defending MBL champions following a year playing for BBC Arantia Larochette in Europe.
The 6-foot-5 forward said he noticed some buzz on Facebook and decided to make the trip from Oskaloosa to give the CourtKings a try. A proficient scorer on this night, he mentioned effort, rebounding, setting screens and shot blocking as areas of his game in which he takes pride.
“We’ve got a lot of new players and it’s been fun gelling with the players that are back,” Burford said. “I’ve been having fun and am trying to keep the (27-game win) streak alive.
“We’re very competitive in practice against each other. We come out here and just leave it all out on the floor.”
In addition to Burford’s production, Tyner added 22 points, Kelly scored 18 and Aundre Hicks contributed 20 points within the CourtKings starting lineup. North Minneapolis’ Montreal Freeman hit four 3-pointers to lead the Eagles with 18 points.
While it was a successful debut for Cedar Valley, Mohlis made sure to point out there’s plenty of room for growth. He says that starts with body language, defending without fouling and avoiding conflict within a game that became chippy.
A brief altercation occurred in the third quarter after hard foul on North Minneapolis’ Mark Turner. The two teams combined to shoot 87 free throws in a marathon battle that included a handful of technical fouls.
“If we have guys that want to complain and talk on the bench, that’s not CourtKings basketball,” Mohlis said. “When we’re at our best, we’re focused on us and playing as a team and bringing energy in a positive way.”
Cedar Valley 144, North Minneapolis 97
NORTH MINNEAPOLIS (0-1) — Daevon Abram 2 0-2 4, DeAnthony Taylor 5 7-7 17, Mark Turner 6 2-4 17, Jim Oyefeso 4 6-9 14, Marteze Jackson 0 0-2 0, Deamonte Brown 2 2-3 6, Nick Knight 5 1-1 17, Pierre Fulford 0 4-8 4, Ross Ennen 0 0-2 0, Montreal Freeman 6 2-2 18, Joe Webb 0 0-0 0. Totals 32 24-38 97.
CEDAR VALLEY (1-0) — David Stanley 0 0-0 0, Aundre Hicks 8 2-3 20, Raijon Kelly 7 3-5 18, Raheem Tyner 8 5-8 22, Anthony James 4 2-2 13, Marcus Smith 2 4-5 8, Johnny Jackson 1 0-0 2, Brady Burford 12 10-12 34, Darius Campbell 2 1-3 5, Bradley Dockemeyer 2 0-0 5, Queshawn Roby 1 5-6 8, DiMarco Mallett 2 1-3 6, Tyler Richardson 1 1-2 3. Totals 38 34-49 144.
North Minn. 20 26 24 27 — 97
Cedar Valley 39 41 25 39 — 144