Wednesday, April 05, 2000

Stuff coasting to East title


Home-court fight for playoffs just starting

BY PETE HOLTERMANN
Enquirer contributor

        Cincinnati will have two chances to win the IBL Eastern Conference crown tonight, but the Stuff will not relax while waiting for the playoffs to begin in early May.

        “Being in the position to win the conference championship is great, and I'm very happy for our team to achieve that goal,” Stuff coach Joby Wright said. “Now the major focus has to be positioning ourselves for the best record in the league for home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.”

        The Stuff would win the conference tonight with a victory at San Diego or a Trenton loss at home to New Mexico.

        “For us to be the youngest team in the league and win the (conference) championship is an impressive honor and accomplishment,” Wright said.

        The Stuff (36-15) are chasing St. Louis (39-14) for the league's best record.

        Winning the conference means the Stuff will have a bye for the first round of the playoffs, while the second- and third-place teams from the East (probably Trenton and Richmond) play a best-of-three series. Cincinnati will face that winner in a best-of-three series, with the Stuff having home-court advantage.

        The league championship pits the winner of the Eastern Conference playoffs in a best-of-five series against the winner of the Western Conference playoffs. The team with the best overall record gets home-court advantage.

        “(Home-court advantage) is important, because it's not a seven-game series, it's just five,” Stuff forward Tremaine Fowlkes said. “That goes by just like that, so any advantage will help us.”

        The Stuff have had the conference title virtually secured for some time and hold a 121/2- game edge over second-place Trenton.

        In the West, seven games separate first-place St.Louis from New Mexico and Las Vegas.

        “That's going to be a dogfight over there, because they're going to knock each other off,” Wright said.

        It won't be easy for the Stuff to catch St.Louis and get that home-court advantage. The Stuff are 11-12 on the road this year, and their next three games, and nine of the last 13, are away from Cincinnati.

       



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