Legend Defeats Skyhawks
By Andrew Astleford

Strong starts and solid finishes by individuals can define a team’s success.

In Immanuel McElroy's case Wednesday night, the guard took control offensively at the most crucial moments of the game to guide the Dodge City Legend to a 106-105 victory over the St. Louis SkyHawks at the Dodge City Civic Center.

McElroy started the Legend off offensively by scoring the team's first six points. He finished with a season-high 35 points, including eight of Dodge City's final 12, to push the Legend (7-6) to its 24th straight home victory.

McElroy was successful on the defensive end as well, holding Justin Love, the United States Basketball League's second-leading scorer, to just 12 points - nearly 15 points less than Love's season average.

"I got it going early," McElroy said. "My teammates found me posting up, running the floor… I started hitting good shots and looking for my teammates.

"That's what I try to do. I'm not a selfish player; I try to get everyone involved. When it's time to get the ball and go to the rim, that's what I like to do."

Dodge City coach Dale Osbourne said that McElroy has become a vital element to the success of his team.

"Give (Dodge City) credit. We stuck in there and came up with some big plays in some big spots," he said. "Right now, Immanuel McElroy, he put us on his back. He's playing phenomenal right now. I don't know where we'd be without him.

"With McElroy, you know that if you get him the ball he'll hit his free throws or make a great decision with the basketball. We learned on the road trip that when the game's on the line, we've got to get him the ball and keep everyone else occupied."

The game's result was in doubt until St. Louis' Jerrod Gee, who led his team with 19 points, was stripped in the lane by Roberto Bergersen with 3.7 seconds to go in the fourth quarter. Both teams combined for five lead changes and three ties in the final six minutes.

Rawlings was fouled and converted two free throws to put the Legend up 106-102. A desperation 3-pointer went in for St. Louis (2-10) as time expired.

St. Louis coach Steve Hall, who acted in place of the suspended Floyd Irons, said McElroy's presence made all the difference for Dodge City.

"He's the hometown favorite," Hall said. "We decided not to help, because we were afraid (Reed) Rawlings was going to hit threes. But McElroy is the leader of the team. He did what a leader is supposed to do."

Lead changes were not confined to the final minutes of play.

The Legend led by as many as seven points midway through the third quarter until the SkyHawks roared back with a 14-1 run - a stretch in which the Legend was held without a field goal for 3:20.

St. Louis pushed its lead to five, its largest of the game, when Mike Mackell hit a 3-pointer as time expired in a third quarter that saw St. Louis outscore Dodge City 33-23.

Osbourne was given a technical foul in the waning moments of the first half for protesting an official's decision when Jermaine Williams was blocked by a group of SkyHawks underneath the basket. Dodge City closed the half with a 53-48 lead after four lead changes in the final minutes.

NOTES: Todd Okeson, Stais Boseman, Jermaine Williams and Roberto Bergerson made their home debuts. All came off the bench… St. Louis' Jerrod Gee returned to the Civic Center since averaging 8.4 points and 6.0 rebounds in seven games for the Legend in 2002… Muntrelle Dobbins and Jermaine Tate were part of Legend roster moves yesterday. Dobbins was placed on injured reserve, and Tate was released… Suspended St. Louis coach Floyd Irons, suspended for taking his team off the court in a forfeit loss at Cedar Rapids, was in attendance and viewed the game from behind the SkyHawks' bench.

ST. LOUIS (105) - Dobbins 10-19 2-3 22, K. Johnson 8-18 3-6 22, Love 5-12 0-1 12, O. Johnson 0-1 0-0 0, Mitchom 0-0 0-0 0, Rivers 0-2 0-1 0, Baniak 0-1 0-0 1-2 1, Kern 0-0 0-0 0, Mackell 6-12 7-8 19, Miller 2-2 1-3 5, Gee 9-18 6-7 24. Totals 40-85 20-30 105

DODGE CITY (106) - Dye 1-3 4-4 6, Young 0-0 0-0 0, Williams 5-10 2-7 12, Okeson 0-0 0-0 0, Davis 0-0 0-0 0, Bergersen 4-11 0-0 11, McElroy 11-16 13-18 35, Boseman 3-12 6-7 12, Rawlings 6-11 2-2 17, Whitehead 4-7 5-7 13. Totals 34-70 32-45 106

St. Louis 23 25 33 30 - 105
Dodge City 25 28 23 30 - 106

Halftime - Dodge City 53, St. Louis 48. 3-point goals - St. Louis 5 (Dobbins 0-1, Johnson 3-7, Love 2-5, Rivers 0-1), Dodge City 6 (Bergersen 3-7, Boseman 0-3, Rawlings 3-7). Rebounds - St. Louis 57 (Mackell 11), Dodge City 40 (Whitehead 10). Assists - St. Louis 13 (Gee 3), Dodge City 19 (McElroy 2, Boseman 4, Rawlings 4). Turnovers - St. Louis 18, Dodge City 12. Fouls - St. Louis 30, Dodge City 23. Fouled out - none. Technical fouls - Osbourne. Records - St. Louis 2-10, Dodge City 7-6.