BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — The RiverSharks saved their most explosive offensive performance for the playoffs. The MPBA’s top-ranked team had five players crack the 20-point barrier, and rained down 17 threes on their fellow St. Louisans.
The St. Louis RiverSharks defeated the Gateway Steam 153-129 Thursday night in the first semifinal of the MPBA playoffs. The Riversharks defeated the Steam for the fifth time in five tries this season and will move on to the MPBA Championship game on Friday night in Bloomington.
The pair of St. Louis teams, although familiar foes, seemed unable to stop the other. The combined 282 points is the highest of any game this season that did not go to overtime. The RiverSharks’ 153 points is the highest for any individual team excluding overtime games, and is only four back of the 157 the Bloomington Flex scored against the Steam in a double OT thriller earlier this season.
To rack up point totals like that it takes an uncommon efficiency. Both teams shot 53 percent from the field and more than 80 percent from the free-throw line. The only true discrepancy was from behind the three-point arc. The RiverSharks shot 17-of-33 including 9-of-13 in the first half to the Steam’s just 2-of-11.
That lights out shooting carried St. Louis to a relatively comfortable victory. The RiverSharks jumped out to a 14-4 lead, but the Steam came back to close to within one. However, a run to end the first quarter gave the RiverSharks a 13-point lead. St. Louis would expand their lead to as much as 26 the rest of the way, and it never dropped below 13 points in the second half.
Three RiverSharks set their season highs in point totals Thursday night. Shooting Guards Harry Marshall and Kenny McGowen had 32 and 31 points, respectively. Terry Evans, a forward known more for his defense than offense, scored 24 points, including shooting 6-of-7 from 3-point range. Evans only had three makes from behind the arc the entire regular season.
A couple of the usual suspects also added at least 20 points. Starting point guard Jerrold Brooks finished with 26 points, 5 assists, and 7 rebounds, and starting center Marcus Goode scored 20 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for his fifth double-double of the season.
The Steam had a much more lopsided scoring night. Just two players combined for 85 of Gateway’s 129 points. Jake Anderson broke the 35-point barrier versus the RiverSharks for the second time in three games. Anderson scored his season high 42 points and fell just one rebound shy of a double-double. The former Iowa State guard had 40 points after three quarters of play. Tarvin Gaines scored a game-high 43 points and did get that double-double with 10 rebounds.
The Steam and Head Coach Durrell Robinson end their first season with an overall record of 5-16, losing their last 7 games.
The RiverSharks will take on the Champaign Swarm, who beat the Bloomington Flex in the other semifinal, at 7:05 p.m. on Friday at the U.S. Cellular Coliseum for the first MPBA Title. The game can be streamed live at theMPBA.com. Arch City Sports will be there live to cover the first championship game of the year for St. Louis professional sports.