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Kankakee County Soldiers are 2011/12 IBA winter champions - Jan 17, 2012

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No buzzer beaters, and no miracles needed this time.

For now, the debate is over: The Kankakee County Soldiers are champs - again - and the Gary Splash will have to wait until spring to try to take out their rivals.

With a 112-106 win Saturday at the Hidden Cove Sportsplex, the Soldiers swept the Splash two games to none to win the championship series of the first-ever Independent Basketball Association winter season.

Almost a year ago to the day, the Soldiers beat the Splash for the International Basketball Leagues winter title when Ryan Edwards (6'5''-F-83, college: Missouri Baptist) hit a 40-foot shot at the buzzer. On Saturday, they didn't need such heroics, though the Splash made things tight down the stretch.

'They said last year was luck, and all those types of things', Soldiers coach Barry Bradford said. 'So its good to have the best two out of three, win a game at their place convincingly, come back and fight for one here. I was proud of their team, too, though. They fought back, they showed why they continue to find themselves back in games, just fighting. Just feels good to kind of put that chapter to bed officially. In front of people, too.'

Last years title came in Battle Creek, Mich. On Saturday, a crowd that filled all around the court watched the Soldiers hold off the Splash, coached by Bradfords brother Jay, who used to coach the Soldiers.

'It's really good, because we dont like them, they dont like us', said Edwards, who had 23 points. 'Jay used to coach the team, it's [Barry's] brother. It's rivalry-type things, that's what it's made of. Let them know who the true champ is.'

The Soldiers led 63-50 at the half, and the Splash kept crawling back, though they struggled to get closer than eight.

The Soldiers pushed the lead to 90-76 after three quarters when Anthony Kyle (5'9''-PG-81, college: Miles), who had 22 points, hit a 3-pointer with 1.9 seconds left in the third quarter.

In the fourth, a deep Edwards 3-pointer put the Soldiers ahead 100-87 with less than 6:30 left. But Gary went on a 7-0 run and trimmed the lead to 100-94 on a Peter Dunbar lay-in with 5:18 remaining.

The Soldiers only led 104-101 with 57.3 seconds left after the Splash made two free throws. The Soldiers CeCe Malone, who also had 23 points, missed a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession after a timeout, but Stan Chismark came up with a big offensive rebound, one of 21 total rebounds he had on the night, and the Splash started fouling.

Gary, which had a game-high 25 points from Reynaldo Howard (6'0''-PG-87)., got as close as 108-104 with under 20 seconds left, but the Soldiers made 8 of 8 free throws in the final 27.8 seconds to seal the win.

That left them hoisting the championship trophy while Bradford addressed his home crowd after another title.

I feel a little fortunate, actually, Chismark said. We stopped making shots, they started hitting shots, We had dominated the boards the first few quarters, and then it became neutral to even them getting us on the rebounds. Thats how theyve always gotten us in the past, is on the rebounds. And we got just enough just to hold them off; made our free throws down the stretch, which was big; and we got enough stops.

Courtesy of   

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