August 27, 2016
Slam falls in Seattle Pro-Am semi-finals, 111-108
The Bellingham Slam's lack of depth finally caught up with them as they fell in heartbreaking fashion to Team Brand Black, 111-108, in the semi-finals of the Seattle Pro-Am playoffs on Saturday at Royal Brougham Pavilion.
Despite suiting up just seven players due to multiple injuries and overseas playing commitments, the Slam provided fans with perhaps the most exciting contest of the Pro-Am season. But it wasn't Brand Black guard Jamal Crawford or forward Terrance Williams that put a dagger in Bellingham's championship hopes, instead it was former WWU Vikings guard Robert Harris Jr.
Harris, who played several games with the Slam during the 2014 International Basketball League season, torched Bellingham with 23 second half points and finished with 31. Meanwhile, Crawford and Williams combined for just 17.
Guard Paul Hafford closed out a back-and-forth first half which featured 16 lead changes by nailing a deep three-pointer to give the Slam a 50-48 advantage at the break.
Brand Black scored the first eight points of the second half and asserted control for much of the third quarter, leading 81-76 heading into the fourth.
But the Slam refused to go away quietly, using a 10-0 run in the middle stages of the fourth quarter, tying the game at 94-94 with 3:32 left on a successful and-one play by Hafford.
After Harris put Brand Black back on top with five straight points, at 99-94, Bellingham rattled off six straight points of their own and went up 100-99 with 2:10 to play on a lay-in by forward Tyler Amaya.
After a defensive stop, the Slam extended their lead by one more, to 101-99, on a free throw from Hafford. But Bellingham's defense had trouble the rest of the way, as Brand Black center Chris Johnson hit a jumper from the top of the key on the next possession to tie things up, and Harris nailed a three moments later to re-capture the lead, at 104-103, with a minute remaining.
Crawford, who inserted himself into the game in the final minute, preserved the win by going 3-for-4 from the free throw line. The Slam was able a great look at tying the game at the buzzer, but could not get a three to fall.
Hafford led the Slam with 40 points and connected on 7 three-pointers. Forward Nick Moore added 21, topping the 20-point plateau for the third straight game. The loss overshadowed the third triple-double of the season for Amaya, as he posted totals of 11 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists.
Johnson led Brand Black with 33 points and a game-high 17 points, while Harris complemented his 31 points with 10 assists to also finish with a double-double.
The Slam finishes the 2016 campaign with a 7-3 record, ending a season without a championship for the first time since 2011. Brand Black advances to face Ball Is Life in Sunday's Seattle Pro-Am championship game.