Wizards defeat the Big Red 1
It was truly magical. A weekend full of basketball with the Wizards professional basketball team casting a spell on two tough opponents and coming out on top in both matches. The Wizards (6-2) finished the busy non-conference weekend with a perfect 2-0.
Sunday's victory against the Fort Riley Big Red 1 (12-8) did not come without some adversity on Armed Forces Day. The Wizards were in for a battle. It was also a special day honoring both active and retired members of the military included special invocations, bugle salutes, and a fun 1920s-style basketball match at halftime by the Granny's Basketball League.
But, despite the fun, it was also an opportunity to take on a tough team with a proven winning record.
"The game versus the Fort Riley Big Red 1 is an opportunity for a team in our league to play a team in the Military Basketball Association. Both teams being from Kansas is also a great thing. Both playing in a state that loves basketball at all levels," said Mark Creed, CEO and team founder.
Prior to the Sunday afternoon matchup, his team was a little more apprehensive.
The Wichita Wizards played two games on Saturday against Program Select Missouri - with the two teams' development or semipro squads meeting in the afternoon and the pros at 6 p.m. The Bulldogs and Wizards split the two non-conference games, the Bulldogs winning the afternoon match and the Wizards taking control and defeating the Missouri team during the pro game. Despite the excitement for the full weekend of play, there were some tired legs on the court Sunday afternoon against The Big Red 1.
THose guys are in the military - they HAVE to be in shape," laughed Saturday night's player of the game, Jeremiah May. "We're playing two games back-to-back, we're gonna have to step it up."
And step it up they did, beating the Central Division League tournament champs who also competed in the MBA championship tournament here in Wichita during Memorial weekend. The final score: Wizards, 110, and the Big Red 1, 103.
Coach Terry Stucky said after the match-up that his team went on to the hardwood determined to win.
"They really wanted to win - so they just gutted it out," said Stucky. "It was just one of those games you got to gut it out."
Stucky had five players in double figures and four with double-doubles. Always looking to improve, as he looks at future games he plans to have the Wizards focus on possessions.
"Possessions are critical, we need to get more and limit theirs," Stucky said.
Kaelon Gary finished with 25 points, Parker Austin 21, and May 15, while Anthony Cameron and Michael Barnes each dropped 14.
Gary was the player of the game and credited the win to "unselfish play" adding "It was fun to play against them, but it was definitely a tough game."
May and Cameron both helped the Wizards under the bucket - pulling down both offensive and defensive rebounds. Cameron and his moves might have been familiar to some Wizards fans as he returned to the lineup after an injury last season.
"It was Anthony Cameron’s second game for the Wizards after only three practices, and he is slowly becoming a part of the rotation with Mike Barnes and Jeremiah May. May and Barnes have been very steady and effective all season, but bringing in Anthony has given us a much better rotation in the front court. Cameron played a few games last season while battling an ankle injury, but has come back lighter, quicker, and with a new sense of purpose," said Creed.
Hot shooting put Fort Riley up 12-4 just 3:30 into the contest. That lead bulged to nine before Kaelon Gary and Parker Austin went to work. Gary and Austin each hit triples as the Wizards pulled within five by the media timeout. Wichita closed the half on a 26-17 run to take a 10-point halftime lead.
Jai'Raye Velez scored 12 of his 20 total points in the third frame to pull Fort Riley within four before May hit a big three that put Wichita up 69-60 with 5:26 remaining in the third. A Big Red 1 bucket with 1:25 to go pulled Fort Riley back within four, but a Cameron And-1 dunk gave Wichita the 80-73 lead.
Fort Riley tied the game thrice in the final frame (at 84-, 86-, and 93-all) but Gary went to work again in the final three minutes to secure the Wizard victory. Gary's back-to-back buckets made it 97-93 with 3:30 to play. A Gary dish to May put the Wizards up six before a Barnes And-1. Hanging onto a 106-102 lead with just 22 seconds remaining, the Wizards had to hit free throws down the stretch to hold off the Big Red One.
FINAL: Wizards 110 Big Red One 103
On Saturday night, the Wizards took on the tough Springfield, Missouri-based Program Select Missouri pro team and pulled out an impressive win.
May led the Wizards with 25 points, while Gary provided an 18-point, 15-rebound double-double. The Wizards shot 43% from the field, but just 19% from deep. Robert Galvin led the Bulldogs with 33 points. Program Select Missouri shot just 30% from the field and a mere 15% from distance.
FINAL: Wizards 113 Bulldogs 87.
In addition, the Wizards' semi-pro and developmental players took on the Bulldogs in an exhibition game at 3 p.m. Saturday. The young squad fell to the team from Missouri, 78-106.
Wichita is on the road June 10 and June 17 before returning home to Friends University to face the Tri-State 66ers at 2 p.m., Sunday, June 18 for a Father's Day battle. General Admission tickets for the final regular season game on Father's Day are $12 and courtside is $20. GA tickets can be purchased online at wichitawizards.com or all tickets are available at game time.