Yellow Jackets stunned by Central PA Kings, lose 2nd game, 130-119 

Both teams gather post-game to pray for safe travels.

by Thomas Leturgey

The Central Pennsylvania Kings traveled from Harrisburg to make a point Saturday Night in Pittsburgh. From the pre-game warm-ups, the #21 ranked team looked focused and determined in their showdown with the defending American Basketball Association (ABA) Regional Champions.

Led by Mookie Bates, a shooting guard averaging 45 points a game, the 7-4 Kings were poised against the 10-1 Yellow Jackets.

Ace Pippens’ squad was depleted. Surging Co-Captain Tone Reddic was unable to make the game, and the immediate future of 7’ center Artis Cleveland remains unclear. Sidelined by a foot injury, Cleveland didn’t play the last few weeks, but was healthy Saturday. The East Detroit resident was home as of Friday. Players at this level often come-and-go from league to league, and Cleveland is hoping to further his hoops dreams in an upcoming training camp.

In addition, “Agent Zero” Kenny Holmes was battling a bug that kept him from sleeping the night prior. Always a trooper, last year’s playoff MVP and leading regular season MVP candidate Holmes played despite not feeling 100%.

Pippens hoped that the home club would fare well against the visitors, and had a trick up his sleeve. The Yellow Jackets starting lineup consisted of Co-Captain Gilmore Cummings, star forward Claude Scott, Jr., as well as relative newcomer (another league transplant) Ryan Montoya at guard, emerging forward Domick McClung at forward, and Brandon Burnett at center/forward. Burnett, a big presence in the paint, has struggled offensively this year, and has been looking for a way to inspire his game.

Both teams started fast, but without a single jumper. The first points of the game came via Claude Scott’s two free-throws after a foul at the 11:09 mark. Mookie Bates, another leading league MVP candidate, the first of his troubling-for-the-Jackets three-pointers. Josh Quartmon, whose name would be called frequently throughout the evening, scored, but it was Gilmore Cummings who scored a three-pointer to tie the score and lead into the first time out of the evening.

It was evident that Antoine Brown, the Head Coach of the Central Pennsylvania Kings, had prepared his players for this game. For the rest of the first quarter, it would be a fast-break, fast moving affair between two equally-paired clubs. Dominick McClung scored on an impressive dunk to make it 23-20, and Holmes added a three-pointer to extend the lead to 26-20, but Bates would score before the first buzzer. The Yellow Jackets had a slim 26-22 lead.

Quartmon would help keep the Kings close with 9:16 to go in the second quarter, and Randy Fulp, Jr., who had a strong contest, tied things up at 8:47. The two members of the Kings’ lineup would team with Isiah Fields to take a 36-32 lead. Holmes and the rest of the Yellow Jackets had a lousy night from the floor. At times, their jumpers and three-point attempts all fell cold. That led to frustrations from the home team. Bates was momentarily injured at mid-court with 6:39 to go in the quarter. Officials stepped in to cool things down and Brown was warned by the officials of adding fuel to an on-court simmering situation.

Bates was okay and Fields extended the Kings’ lead to 40-32. Tim and James Jackson led a resurgence for the Yellow Jackets. With less than three minutes to go in the second quarter, Tim Jackson hit a three-pointer to tie the game at 46. Bates would immediately answer with his own three-pointer and James Jackson hit a jumper to trim the lead to 49-48. Another timeout was called. James Jackson scored once play resumed and added a free-throw to extend the Yellow Jackets slim lead.

Scott was fouled again and hit two free throws and Holmes added a jumper and free-throw after being fouled himself. The Yellow Jackets were up 56-51 at the half.

During intermission, several of the Yellow Jackets stayed on the court and took extra shots a the hoop they would target in the second-half. 

Once the second-half started, the Yellow Jackets opened quickly. They had a 61-53 lead on the strength of Cummings’ three-pointer and Montoya’s jumper and post-foul free throw. Quartmon and Glenn Bennett and Bates brough the Kings back to a 64-64 tie. 

Scott would come on for the Yellow Jackets, but so would Bates, Bennett, Bowen and Quartmon for the Kings. They would build up a 74-68 lead. McClung and Holmes answered for the home team, but the Kings maintained a 78-74 advantage when another skirmish broke out on the Kings’ side of the hardwood. Fields was called for fouling Tim Jackson during the exchange and Kings’ coach Brown was called out by one of the officials for advancing the argument.

With about two minutes to go in the third quarter, Gilmore Cummings was knocked to the court and hit his head. While he would shake off the injury, he would not return to the game. 

Holmes hit a three-pointer to take the lead for the Yellow Jackets, but Bowen instantly tied things up again. There was a technical foul on James Jackson and Bates two free throws. The teams would trade baskets, but the Kings maintained a 86-83 lead at the end of the third quarter.

The returning Justin Hamilton was eased back into the fray and he scored. Holmes made things interesting with a three-pointer to make the game 88-87. Hamilton and Fields traded buckets before Holmes once again tied the score at 92-92. The Kings pulled ahead before James Jackson scored an electrifying 3D jumper to tie things back up at 97 with 7:16 to go. The teams continued to trade scores and with 4:26 to go, the Kings pulled ahead. For good.

Bates and Bowen quickly extended the Kings’ lead to 111-102. Quartmon, who had been a formidable foe for all of the Yellow Jackets forwards underneath, came on in the final moments. It was 126-111 for Central Pennsylvania when Tim Jackson, in frustration, double-clutched before firing the basketball a quarter length of the court and against the wall. Bates hit both free-throws following the technical foul. James Jackson did his best to keep the Yellow Jackets close in the final moments before the final bell. The Kings had upset the Yellow Jackets, 130-119.

James Jackson led the Yellow Jackets with 31 points and Kenny Holmes had 26. Tim Jackson had 18, Claude Scott, Jr. added 12 and Dominick McClung 11.

Mookie Bates led all scorers with 43 and Josh Quarton added 19. Isaiah Bowen-Perrin added another 18.

The 10-2 Yellow Jackets now watch the others in the ABA Power Rankings. The #1 ranked Binghamton Bulldogs lost a game last week, but remained in the top spot because they had played one more game than most. California’s Team Trouble, the team the Yellow Jackets defeated in the ABA championship game, were 10-1 at the beginning of the week. The Top 10 very competitive with everyone in the Top 9 suffering no more than two losses as of January 23.

The Yellow Jackets stay home next Saturday. The Yellow Jackets will take on the New Jersey Knights, who they defeated last weekend, 140-124. 

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