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It's IBL playoffs this weekend for Chinooks, Volcanoes

Terry Emmert pays the freight for his Portland Chinooks, but the biggest expense may be replacing lights on the scoreboard at Eastmoreland Courts.

Emmert's Chinooks won a game that meant nothing but meant everything Tuesday night, knocking off the Vancouver Volcanoes 141-133 in a wild International Basketball League overtime affair.

Vancouver (12-5) had already clinched second place in the International Conference regular season and will play host to No. 3 seed Portland (10-5) in a 5 p.m. semifinal playoff game at Clark College. The survivor will take on the winner of the other semi, pitting top seed Bellingham against the winner of the Salem-Seattle tussle at 7:30 p.m. The IBL title will then be decided at 5 p.m. Sunday at Clark.

The Volcanoes sat out the league's top scorer, 6-2 guard Andre Murray out of Portland State, and still took the Chinooks to overtime Tuesday night.

"Maybe we thought it was going to be easy because Andre wasn't playing," said Portland's Germain Jordan, who collected 35 points, 14 rebounds and six assists in the victory. "They played us tough right down to the final minute."

That's because inter-city pride was on the line.

"It's the Battle of the Bridge," said Vancouver's Calvin Hampton, a 6-10 power forward out of Oregon State who had 11 points and five rebounds before exiting with back spasms early in the second half. "It's a rivalry game. We're a bunch of guys who know each other pretty well and have played a lot of ball together and against each other. It means a lot more than just what's on the uniform.

"We wanted the bragging rights, but they ended up beating us three out of five (in the regular season). I wanted to get the edge on them this year, but we'll get another shot Saturday."

Murray, who ended the regular season leading the IBL in scoring (34.2) and assists (8.6), wasn't hurt.

"He has played a lot of basketball, and he was just taking some rest," said forward Adam Herman, who led Vancouver with 30 points and 16 rebounds. "Andre is a difference-maker for us. We'll be glad to have him back on Saturday. That's the one that counts, so that's the one we're aiming for."

Jordan -- the league's No. 3 scorer at 27 points per contest -- wasn't about to sit the game out.

"I'm a competitor," said Jordan, a former Wilson High standout who played two years at Lower Columbia CC, then a year at NAIA Dillard in New Orleans. "I didn't want to miss this one. We needed some momentum going into Saturday's playoff game at their place."

The IBL sounds like a pro league, but it's really more semi-pro at best. Nine teams are listed on the league's website, but there are three teams with solid ownership and management -- two-time defending champion Bellingham, Vancouver and Portland. The rest of the league's teams are underfunded and can't afford road trips, so that nobody beyond the Big Three played more than eight games in the regular season.

"Next year, we'll have six teams with solid ownership, including Salem, Seattle and a team in Kelso," said Emmert, who has run the Chinooks for seven of the last eight years. "I'd like to have 16 to 18 teams. I'd like to have more competition. I just like to get our players a chance to get a look to move up to the next level."

That could mean any of a variety of minor leagues, including the NBA Development League.

"We've had some players make it to the D-League," said Emmert, 69, who also owns the Arena Football League Portland Thunder. "We have a pretty good array of talent, and we play an exciting brand of basketball."

High-scoring, at least. The 24-second shot clock is almost unnecessary. Defense is played at times, but the IBL is mostly about getting up and down the court at breakneck speed, with plenty of 3-point shots and lob passes and leak-outs for easy baskets and dunks.

Emmert has remained involved in no small part due to David Lucas, son of the late, great Maurice Lucas, who has played for the Chinooks for most of the last seven seasons. Lucas, with Brent Barry and Jared Cunningham the best players to represent Oregon State since the Gary Payton era, is ailing with a back injury and probably won't be available Saturday.

Without Lucas, Portland's top talent is Jordan, who left Dillard to return to the Northwest after just one year.

"When it rained in New Orleans, it was flooding, and I can't swim that well," Jordan said, smiling. "I had to get back home."

It's Jordan's third season in the IBL, and he has enjoyed it.

"Every team we play, they have players," he said. "Any team can beat another on any given night. Bellingham has been the team to beat every year I've played. (The Slam) just know how to play. But we have a chance this weekend. If we play Portland Chinook ball, we can beat anybody."

The IBL has been a great landing spot for Herman after a storied career at Concordia, where he set the school scoring record with 2,257 points, finished with a career field-goal percentage of .630 and ranked third on the school rebound list with 793. As a senior this winter, the 6-6 former Prairie High great was named first-team All-American and Cascade Conference player of the year. Herman ranked sixth nationally with a 24.6-point scoring average and led the Cavaliers to their first NAIA Division II national championships appearance in more than a decade.

"It's been a blast to play in this league," Herman said. "The players are a lot faster, a lot stronger. The physicality of the game has been an adjustment, but I'm glad to experience it."

Herman hopes the Volcanoes get a shot to knock off the Slam on Sunday.

"They play team basketball," he said. "They run their stuff, and they run it well. We'll be ready for them, but we have to focus on Portland first."

The good thing for Emmert is, the Chinooks will be playing on the road. No matter how much his team runs up the scoreboard, he won't have to foot the bill to replace the lights.

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