Yellow Jackets come on strong, sweep Burning River Buckets 142-89

by Thomas Leturgey

The Steel City Yellow Jackets had their first away-and-home weekend of the 2022-2023 campaign and went up against a formidable Burning River Buckets club. The score was a competitive 121-111 affair in Cleveland on Saturday, so a couple of worn-out teams traveled back to Pittsburgh to face off less than 24 later in the Allentown neighborhood within the city of Pittsburgh. And the Yellow Jackets were ready.

Much has been made of the dominance of guard Kenny Holmes, who has averaged 40 points a game coming off the bench this campaign. But when he showed up on Sunday, the rigors of a 42-point exhibition were on display. But once “Agent Zero” was warmed up, he was effective.

In addition, the returning Tone Reddic Sr. said after Sunday’s game that he knew he had some court rust in the legs the night before. But Sunday, the MVP candidate of lore was back and driving to the board with his usual reckless fervor.

On Saturday, Patrick Keonig’s club came out like gangbusters, compiling a quick 12-0 lead on Ace Pippens’ group before all the fans were in the bleachers. On Sunday, the Buckets came out strong with a triple from Justin Fritz and a follow up jumper from Michael Anderson. But just as quickly, Tim Jackson (with a triple) and twin James Jackson each scored to tie things up very early. James Jackson and Amaru Caldwell added quick scores and Fritz countered, but the Yellow Jackets were up 14-8. Fritz had a heck of a first quarter, charging ahead with 23 of the Bucket’s first 32 points.

With Fritz coming on strong, Michael Anderson’s score would tie things up at 16 with 5:22 to go. Tim Jackson, Artis Cleveland, Reddic and Amaru Caldwell would come on. But the Burning River Buckets were right there with Steel City, and ended the first quarter with a 32-30 lead.

The two teams–the Yellow Jackets coming in ranked #1, and Cleveland a 4-0, #10 ranked team coming into the weekend, traded points throughout the second quarter. Reddic scored to take the 36-35 lead early in the second quarter, but Dylan Contento scored to give it right back to the club from Ohio. 

Artis Cleveland and Tim Jackson scored (with Jackson’s being a 3D triple for four points). A time out was called and injured forward Claude Scott Jr. went over some things with Artis Cleveland. The Jacksons both scored quickly once play resumed and when a time out was called, Scott went over some observations with Tim Jackson. 

It was about this time in the game in which the Burning River Buckets weren’t connecting on shots. The team scored regularly in the first quarter of Saturday’s game, but Contento and Fritz both had shots seemingly roll in and then roll out of the cylinder. Michael Anderson connected, but he had some issues with connection as well.

The Jacksons and VaShawn Howard came on in the final few moments of the first half to extend the team’s lead to 66-47.

It was all Yellow Jackets early in the third quarter. Reddic, Howard and James Jackson all scored to make it 74-52. Artis Cleveland, who was relied on to score from the paint, responded with a couple of turn around jumpers to make it 78-52. 

Caldwell, Reddic and the Jacksons went on a run to extend the lead to 92-62 with 2:47 to go in the quarter. Reddic, strong underneath as he was in the playoffs last season, was able to make an impressive tip-in off of an errant Artis Cleveland shot.

Gabe Kynard and Fritz helped trim the lead to 97-69 at the conclusion of the third.

In the fourth quarter, Amaru Caldwell and James Jackson got the Yellow Jackets to 101 points. Unlike Saturday night’s contest, the Yellow Jackets were never in foul trouble. The Burning River Buckets had a difficult night at the charity stripe then, and weren’t able to get much opportunity on Sunday.

Kenny Holmes came on and with a 3D bucket at 8:32, the Yellow Jackets were up 113-73. Holmes, Artis Cleveland, Reddic and James Jackson continued to score, making it 124-79 with with 4:27 to go in the contest.

At this time, it was interesting to see if the Yellow Jackets defense could keep the Burning River Buckets in double digits.

Like Saturday, Yellow Jacket Assistant Coach Mike Mott entered the game with a few minutes remaining. The game prior, Mott committed a foul, but on Sunday he nailed a jumper to make it 139-83. 

Caldwell would finish up the scoring as the Yellow Jackets recorded a 14-89 win.

Reddic lead Steel City with 30 points and Amaru Caldwell connected on 25. James Jackson with 24 and Tim Jackson with 19. Kenny Holmes had 20 on the strength of a strong fourth quarter. Artis Cleveland added an impressive 17, VaShawn Howard 4 and Mike Mott 2.

Justin Fritz cooled off considerably after the first quarter and ended with a team-high 33. Dylan Contento had 24, and KT Taylor and Michael Anderson each had 14. The Burning River Buckets missed playmaker Martel Medley on Sunday. On Saturday night he sustained cuts and a concussion in a physical contest.

The Yellow Jackets return to host the York, PA Buccaneers on Saturday, December 10. Forward Claude Scott, Jr. and guard Gilmore Cummings are hoping to both be ready to come off of Injured Reserve for that game.


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