BLOOMINGTON — A day after being suspended by the Premier Basketball League, the Bloomington Flex won an exhibition game over the American Basketball Association’s Chicago Fury, 123-104, in front 1,843 fans on Friday at U.S. Cellular Coliseum.
The Flex were scheduled to open the playoffs on Friday against the Indianapolis Diesels, but the PBL suspended the Flex through the end of the 2015 season for not agreeing to skip the semifinal round and begin the finals at Rochester, N.Y., on Sunday.
More important than Friday’s result was the announcement by Flex owner and team president Scott Henderson that he wants to field a team again next season in a different league.
“We’ve already gotten calls (from other leagues),” said Henderson while sitting courtside beneath two PBL championship banners. “They want what we have here.”
The Flex ended their third season in existence with a 19-0 record to extend a 23-game winning streak dating back to last season.
“The secret to the success here is that we end up with six or seven holdovers (from the previous season),” Henderson said. “They already know the system. They already know from a leadership perspective what they have to provide.
“So all that stuff is already in place and that’s why it works because a lot of these teams have to start from scratch, but they want to come to Bloomington. They want to play in this building.”
When asked about the attendance this season, Henderson said it has been good on weekends.
“When we have had a reasonable home date, we’ve had good crowds,” he said. “We had 1,400 one time, 1,500 (another). During the week though, it’s tough.
“Hopefully, whatever we do next year we’ll have the dates early enough. When you have the best product in the building, you want the best dates.”
Henderson received a show of support on Friday from Central Illinois Arena Management, which issued a news release expressing disappointment “in yesterday’s sanctions” by the PBL.
“I have been in this business for 30 years and I have never seen a league act in this manner,” said John Butler, President of CIAM, which manages the Coliseum. “Scott Henderson has been a model tenant at the U.S. Cellular Coliseum the past two seasons and has done a tremendous job growing the PBL, while creating one of the best model basketball franchises in the country.
“Scott and his family have put their heart and soul into this franchise and they did not deserve this fate. We will welcome Scott back with open arms next year if he chooses to move forward.”
Butler’s statement also noted the Henderson family, longtime residents of Bloomington, purchased the franchise with the community in mind to offer quality family entertainment at affordable prices.
“I’ve known John since we were both young,” Henderson said. “I’ve known his family. I didn’t expect anything less.”
The Fury, who fell to 12-2, saw the Flex take a 9-2 lead before the visitors made an 18-4 run. It was tied at 25 after one quarter. Former Illinois State star Anthony Slack, making his season debut with the Flex, capped a 15-4 run to give the Flex a 40-29 lead.
Nathan Fuqua scored 14 of his team-high 18 points while the Flex built a 56-47 halftime lead. The gap remained nine points entering the fourth quarter. The Flex used a 16-4 run midway through the final period to open a 103-87 advantage.
Fuqua said the Flex were motivated by “having another day to play basketball. Not everybody is blessed with the opportunity to come out and reach this level so to be able to come out in front of these fans is a great feeling and give them a show they can appreciate.”
Chris Singletary finished with 17 points for the Flex while Gary Redus added 16, Latrell Alford 15 and Slack 14. Alford had the play of the game with a soaring alley-oop dunk off a pass from Daniel Ruffin to make it 89-82 early in the fourth quarter.
“At halftime A.J. (Guyton) told us to turn it up and that would be our way of showing appreciation,” Singletary said. “Teamwork will always beat talent and that’s something that A.J. stressed to us.”
Guyton, the Flex coach, said there are worse things than being banned from the PBL playoffs.
“You’ve just got to be grateful to be able to play another day,” he said. “Nobody is injured. Nobody’s hurt. Nobody’s dying. Everybody can just take advantage of what we had today, celebrate our season as champions and move forward."
“They can kick us out of the league, but they can’t stop us from growing as an organization. We’re looking for new challenges in the future to see what’s best for us.”
Guyton believes a majority of the players hope to return next year.
“This has become a home for them,” he said. “I think they enjoy being here. I think they know this is a place they can use as a stepping stone to get where they want to go.”
Jerwin Calaway led the Fury with 19 points. Maurice Carter and Rob Broughton added 15 each while Mike Gills had 13 and Demetris Davis 11.