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Teams Bring Out Inner Zen as Sioux Falls Advances Past Canton

Positive energy seemed to permeate the Sanford Pentagon as the Sioux Falls Skyforce used a fantastic fourth quarter to gain a 105-98 victory over the Canton Charge Monday night.  Phil Jackson, basketball’s Zen Master would have been proud. 

There wasn’t exactly a perfect peace between these two teams, but the decider did have less edge than the previous two.  A crowd 2,534 strong at the Sanford Pentagon cheered early game rebounds by the home team.  Even the Charge used some warm up time before the National Anthem to stage a dunk contest.  The vitriol present during the first two games of this series was trapped below the surface, as hustle, effort and desire filled the vacuum.  Skyforce guard Tre Kelley explains that the attitude change was by design.  “As a basketball player we always use emotion, but it was more positive tonight because the game was vital.  Whatever we blurted out, we wanted it to support what we were trying to do tonight.”

Canton’s rebounding advantage and Sioux Falls’ turnover capabilities have been duly noted in this series.  Both teams closed the gap in the finale as Canton made only 21 miscues and Sioux Falls minus 11 on the boards.  A little more study helped Kelley and the ‘Force grab a few more misses.  “We watched some film and we saw that a lot of the rebounds they got resulted from not getting a body on some of those guys.  (Arinze Onuaku) is as big and strong as they come, but even as guards we can get into his legs a little.  The athletic guys were flying up there trying to get as many rebounds as they could.  We just stayed with it.”

That dogged determination served Sioux Falls well as Canton held the lead for a good portion of the first three quarters.  When the last stanza arrived, the Skyforce brought the clamps and Canton surrendered some open shots.  Hard-fought home court advantage might have contributed to a 15-2 run that turned a 10 point Canton lead over to Sioux Falls with 7:55 left.  Overall in the fourth quarter, Sioux Falls outscored (35-20), outshot (69-29 percent) and outrebounded the Charge (12-9).  Tre Kelley scored 9 of his game high 26 in the final frame and DeAndre Liggins tallied 8 of his 19 counters along with 2 of his 5 steals in crunch time.  Kelley also got his share of thievery plus take a look at the “squat three” in the highlights.

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Canton finishes a fine season that included recognition for a fine first half.  The Charge coaching staff got to lead one of the D-League All Star squads as a reward for having the 2nd best record in the loop prior to the All-Star game (Rio Grande Valley was 1st).  A slight swoon in March and early April knocked Canton down to 7th place in the standings, but no other team wanted a piece of the Charge in a first round playoff matchup.  Will Cherry capped a fine homestretch with the team with 21 points plus 12 assists and 5th year mainstay Antoine Agudio netted 21 as well.  The aforementioned Onuaku provided 12 points and 14 boards for his second double-double of the series.

Sioux Falls faces top-seeded Fort Wayne in round two.  Game 1 is Thursday night in Sioux Falls with Games 2 and 3 if necessary on the Mad Ants home court.

BONUS CLIP:  Mashup of Kelley’s best from the clincher.

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