By Craig Fata
LIMA – The Lima Express, in their Midwest Professional Basketball Association debut Sunday in Lima, did not show any fear of the league’s 2015 runners-up, taking a 17-point first half lead over the St. Louis RiverSharks. But the RiverSharks showed why they finished with the MPBA’s best record in 2015, as they got a monster second half from reigning league Most Valuable Player Justin Bocot, and came away with a 106-98 win against the host Express.
Lima jumped out of the gate with a 17-3 lead as the RiverSharks failed to find any kind of offensive rhythm. Cody Ballard led the onslaught with 15 points as the Express finished the first quarter up 29-14.
The Express extended the lead to 17 in the second quarter on a bucket by Kyle Meyer with 3:35 to play, before St. Louis closed to 55-41 at halftime.
The RiverSharks steadily brought the lead back to within single digits, but a Johnny Elliott three-pointer sparked the Express back to a 16-point lead midway through the third.
The RiverSharks refused to go away, however. A Nate Green basket brought the deficit to six at 76-70 heading into the fourth.
That’s when Bocot took over, scoring 14 of his game-high 32 in the final frame. A dunk by Bocot with 6:15 to play gave the RiverSharks their first lead of the game at 88-86 since they led 1-0.
James Helton gave Lima the lead back with 2:33 to play with a pair of free throws, however, a jump hook by Keith DeWitt gave the RiverSharks a 96-95 lead on the next possession, and Lima would not lead again.
Bruce Massey added 19 points for St. Louis (1-0), while Brandon Hogg chipped in with 12. Gavin Schumann scored eleven, but his biggest contribution was defensively. After Ballard scored 15 for Lima in the first quarter, St. Louis coach Ray Ferrell assigned Schumann to guard Ballard, and Ballard scored only eight more points the rest of the way.
Meyer led Lima (0-1) with 25 points, and James Helton, who provided a huge spark in the second half for Lima, finished with 20.
Photo courtesy Dean Brown