Usually when a series happens in professional sports, it takes place in baseball. However, as Iowa Energy and Dakota Wizards fans have experienced this past week, the D-League has scheduling quirks of its own.
The two teams have done battle twice already this week ... and they're not done yet. Dakota and Iowa have thus far split the series at one game apiece with one more coming up on Friday night in Des Moines. Here's a recap of what happened last weekend.
It was all Iowa in the series opener. The Energy never trailed in the game, but it wasn't as if the Energy were in total control throughout the night.
Now, when the Energy traveled up to Bismarck to play the Wizards on Jan. 28, the Wizards had every which way with their counterparts from Des Moines. On this night, the Energy knew they had to come out firing with intensity to set the tone.
"We were a little unhappy with the way things went up there," said Mike Efevberha, who led the Energy with 28 points. "We felt comfortable, well-rested, and focused tonight."
Efeberha believes the biggest difference between playing up there against the Wizards against facing them at home is the home-court advantage.
"You can never take playing at home for granted," the former Cal State-Northridge guard said.
Playing at home is something the Energy have done well - 12 wins at home. Their 12 home wins is the most in the D-League (D-Fenders also have 12 home victories). This night was no exception.
The offensive gameplan was simple. Drive to the lane, crash the boards, and get to the free throw line. Check. Check. Big check.
The Energy made 35 free throws during the win. The Wizards only shot 28 on the night.
"The gameplan was to be aggressive," said Efevberha. "We did everything we didn't do in the last game, which was to play harder. I thought we came out tonight very well."
Energy forward Nick Murphy returned to the floor for the first time after gaining a concussion a week earlier. Murphy, who played his college ball at Jacksonville State, scored 23 for Iowa.
"When we set out, we get more hungry when we come back," Murphy said. "We realize how much we appreciate the game. When I was out, I really wanted to play."
Head Coach Kevin Young agrees that his team was the aggressor throughout the night.
"I thought we did a good job being patient on their aggressive press defense tonight," said Young.
Dakota had five different players in double figures, and their two leading scorers with Edwin Ubele and Chris Wright with 19 apiece.
Sat. Feb 4 - Wizards 108, Energy 96
The score may not look as ugly, but as the ESPN show says it perfectly: numbers never lie. And these numbers were definitely in favor of the visitors in this one.
Dakota crashed the boards with relentlessness. The Wizards out-rebounded the Energy 57-39, including winning the offensive rebounds category 20-11. Through that, the Wizards found 32 of their points from second chances. The Energy didn't even get the opportunity to get a second-chance basket.
"One, we weren't tough enough and two, I thought we had too many excuses," said Head Coach Kevin Young."We didn't have much accountability."
Granted, Young does realize that the Wizards had plenty to do with that.
"We've played them many times already, and from two out of the last three, they were the tougher team. They were the frontrunners all night long."
Toughness is one of the tools a basketball player needs to have in order to succeed. On this night, the Energy just didn't have it.
"Toughness is more of a mindset than anything," said Energy guard Brandon Ewing. "Sometimes it's not about executing on every set, sometimes it's about playing hard. We have to find that this week."
Energy forward Andrew Drevo also pointed out that toughness was a big key leading to the Energy loss.
"They just killed us tonight," Drevo said. "Not much else to say."
Drevo finished the night with 17 points. Leading scorer was Moses Ehambe with 18.
One person who was happy about this performance was Dakota Head Coach Nate Bjorkgren.
"I was pleased with the way our guys started out, and that set the tone throughout," said the former Energy assistant. "Our bigs were crashing, and the ball just bounced our way a little bit tonight."
Despite splitting the series, Bjorkgren enjoys returning to Des Moines.
"I love it here, it'll always be special. This is always a great basketball atmosphere," he said.
Bjorkgren and the Wizards return to Des Moines to play on Fri., Feb. 10 at 7 p.m.