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Buffalo 716ers bounce Akron Heat in exhibition

blog by Ben Tsujimoto  • 

For a team that began operations back in fall 2012, the Buffalo 716ers were giddy to finally trot out onto a basketball floor in front of local fans, even if it was for an exhibition game against the five-man Akron Heat of the Ohio Exposure Basketball League.

From summer exposure leagues to an invitation to the Los Angeles Summer Pro League to a weekend exhibition in Canada, 716ers head coach and owner Tawan Slaughter has had ample time to evaluate talent, develop relationships with aspiring local basketball players and field a competitive team that will start in the Premier Basketball League (PBL).

Dispatching the Heat wasn’t a major chore for the 716ers, who cruised to a 105-85 win on Saturday night in front of 300 at Tapestry Charter School.

“We needed this to see where we were at [and] to test ourselves mentally and physically, so it was a good game and a great turnout with the crowd,” Slaughter said post-game.

Sweet Home High School and Buffalo State alum Glenroy Carr led the home team with 23 points, while Travonta Gatewood (16), Amir Billups (13), Kelvin Agee (12) and Darnell Boswell (10) all reached double-figures.

Exploding out of the gate with an aggressive 1-3-1 zone—predicated on pressuring the Heat into turnovers—the 716ers quickly mounted a double-digit first-quarter advantage that they’d never relinquish.

Eight points from Agee—who created and scored at will—and seven from the burly Carr aided Buffalo in its 35-23 edge at the end of the first quarter before the squad’s bench pushed the lead to 21—59-38—at halftime.

With broad shoulders and a thick beard, Carr asserted himself in the post, boasting soft hands and a nice touch around the rim. When his defenders—Akron’s Joe Pope and Dre Young—started to bunker down deeper in the post defensively, Carr was willing to knock down a few open 10-footers.

“He’s an effective player on the court and he’s a great leader,” Slaughter said of Carr. “He can see the open spots and get to them, and that’s the biggest thing.”

Playing without substitutes, Akron wore down rapidly, working feverishly to keep pace with the 716ers’ speedy guards and agile bigs.

“[Akron] came out with five guys—we didn’t know they were going to have five guys—but it didn’t change our mindset,” Carr explained. “We wanted to play hard defense and run them off the jump.”

Though the 716ers cracked the 100-point barrier and won by 20, Slaughter wasn’t particularly thrilled with her club’s effort defensively.

“We’re going to work on our defense—making sure we know our assignments, are closing out [on shooters] and are getting to the spots in our trap—just getting more effective defensively.”

It’s worth remembering, though, that the mission of the 716ers’ organization is two-fold: first and foremost to bring professional basketball back to Buffalo by fielding a competitive and entertaining team, but also to improve the individual prospects of local players with NBA D-League and professional overseas aspirations.

“Tawan is a great person,” Carr gushed. “For her to start this organization for guys like myself who haven’t had the finest opportunities to get overseas and play, it’s just amazing. The crowd, the energy here today, it was amazing.”

Buffalo remains at home for another exhibition clash against Toronto’s Seneca Sting at 7 p.m. Dec. 14 at Tapestry Charter School. Tickets are $5 and they’ve been selling fast.

TAGGED: akron heat, basketball, buffalo 716ers, north buffalo, premier basketball league

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