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Articles

SunKings 2018 NAPB Champion! - May 14, 2018


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This was about much more than simply having more talent.
Certainly the Yakima SunKings were probably the North American Premier Basketball League's best team in that department.
But what defined this team's run to the first NAPB championship was its unselfishness; the ability for players to check their egos and cheer for their teammates while sitting on the bench.
That was never on better display than Saturday in the SunDome.
In the first half, reserves Brent Schuck and Stephen Battle shook Yakima out of an offensive funk as Albany seemed poised to run the SunKings out of the building.
Then in the fourth quarter, with a determined Patroons team refusing to go away, Robert Duncan and Cedric Jackson provided the jolt the SunKings needed. The two scored 13 of Yakima's first 17 points in the quarter and Duncan hit a big 3-pointer to spark a game-clinching 12-0 run as Yakima prevailed 112-97 to sweep the best-of-three series.
'That epitomized what we are as a team,' Yakima coach Paul Woolpert said. 'When Tyler (Thornton) got his fifth foul (early in the fourth) I was concerned. But as has happened all year, other players responded.
'Robert's overall aggression was a turning point for us and Cedric's experience and professionalism was huge down the stretch.'
'One through 11, we all believe in each other,' Duncan said. 'It could be anyone's night any given game.'
'Everyone on the team has had a major impact at some point throughout the season,' said Thornton, who finished with 12 points and seven assists while also neutralizing Albany's Edwin Ubiles, who scored 15 points after getting 24 in game one. 'A championship atmosphere won't be easy and when things get tough, that's when you have to buckle down and come together. We didn't let it get out of hand today.'
Duncan scored nine points and Jackson had eight in the fourth quarter, while Duncan also provided a defensive spark as Yakima held Albany scoreless for 31/2 minutes to turn an 89-87 Yakima lead into a 101-87 advantage and all but lock up the game with 4:06 to play.
One of the key plays in that run was a steal by Duncan when he went up high to intercept an entry pass to Deandre Thomas in the low post, leading to a fastbreak layin by Renaldo Major.
'Robert Duncan played his heart out. He was the spark,' Thornton said. 'Cedric is a leader. We knew what he brings to the table.'
'He's been big-energy on both offense and defense and we all feed off that,' Jackson said of Duncan.
'Robert is a tenacious defender,' said Major, who put the finishing touches on his finals Most Valuable Player performance by scoring the final five points in that decisive run and nine in the final quarter to cap a team-best 20-point performance.
'I just wanted to help the team. I credit my teammates for getting me the ball in the right spots,' said Major, praising this team's resiliency and determination from day one. 'We never gave up. We never quit. I just love this team.'
That grit first emerged Saturday when Yakima fell behind 39-22 early in the second quarter.
But Schuck and Battle, along with Duncan and Thornton, helped to quickly reverse the momentum. Battle scored 10 points and Schuck nine in the period, with Thornton providing six and Duncan four in a massive 17-0 burst that got Yakima right back in the game.
Major scored nine points in the third to help the SunKings take a 79-77 lead into the fourth, setting the stage for the clinching momentum swing in the latter half of the period.
'Teams make runs and teams make mistakes,' Woolpert said. 'But it's special teams that withstand bad runs and come back with good runs themselves.'
In the end, a scan of the box score shows the multitude of contributions.
In addition to Major and Thornton, Jackson just missed a triple-double with 20 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds, while Duncan had 15 points, eight assists and six rebounds. Mac Koshwal had 10 points and 10 boards, and Robert Upshaw had 11 points, with everyone who saw action making a significant impact at some point.
'We knew Albany was a good team and was not going to fall over and give the game to us,' Duncan said. 'I was talking to Renaldo earlier and said the season went by so fast but it took so long. To finally accomplish this feels great.'
Added Jackson, 'We didn't want to lose. We wanted to finish the right way.'

Courtesy of Yakima Herald   




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