Monday, 03 June 2019 14:53 Written by Jian Lan
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2024 AmCon Finals Preview


2024-STL-KEN-ACF
Jorge Denis and the St. Louis Sun Kings are focused on a return trip to the OBWL Finals but the Kentucky Stallions and their young stars have plans of their own.

#3 St. Louis Sun Kings (59-21) vs. #4 Kentucky Stallions (41-39) 

St Louis and Kentucky will meet in the American Conference Finals. Both teams are riding high entering the series. For St Louis, it took them 6 games to get out of the first round against Ft. Worth but the Sun Kings only needed 4 against Tampa Bay in the second round. It wasn't surprising that St Louis won but sweeping the Tritons, a 62 win team that some viewed as favorites to represent the American Conference, was downright shocking. How did the Sun Kings do it? By relying on their superstars, Dong Richardson and Domenic Baum, to do the heavy lifting and a suffocating defense that shut down the Tritons' perimeter. The Tritons' starting backcourt, Alain Lagon and Hobert Frisby, averaged 31 points for the season; in four games the two averaged 20 points. Their small forward, Joe Aviles, was a terror against Philadelphia but was an afterthought against the much smaller Richardson. Aviles was held to 14 points after having averaged 20 points in first round. The Sun Kings are firing on all cylinders as they look for a repeat Finals appearance.

As the 4th seed, Kentucky endured a 6 games series with Detroit before facing top seeded Kansas City. The Pioneers were without their starting center but, with home-court advantage and two of the top guards in the league, still heavily favored. For Kentucky, many thought they needed a herculean effort by Andrew Jackson for the Stallions to advance. But the Stallions pulled off the upset of the postseason mainly because of a little used reserve in Frank Gifford. Gifford started off slow in the first two games but turned it on in the final 5 (18 pts and 6.6 rebounds). He was also crucial in limiting Marshall Gaudett. In a nutshell, Gifford and Jackson were able to counter Mack Lavoie and Mark Marble while the Stallions bench lead by Cecil Means did just enough for Kentucky to moved into the Conference Finals.

What St Louis Needs To Advance

The Sun Kings seemingly have all the advantages: home court, healthier and, most importantly, more talent. But Kentucky should not be overlooked. Andrew Jackson has become one of the premier players in the league and the team is full of confidence. The Sun Kings need to continue feeding the ball to Richardson and Baum. This will be a perimeter-focused series and Richardson and Baum are both elite players. Kentucky doesn't have the horses to run with them.

What Kentucky Needs to Advance

This matchup will be even tougher for Kentucky. Gifford was effective against Kansas City because Gaudett is slow of foot. That is not going to be the case against St Louis where he'll be facing Richardson or Timothy Adler. In fact its likely Gifford will not see much action in the series and Jackson is moved back to his natural Small Forward position as the Stallions try to match the speed and quickness from the Sun Kings. If that happens we'll likely see some combinations of Henry Moreland, Cecil Means and Tony Bowe starting in the backcourt. They must attack Jorge Denis, who is the Sun Kings' weakest defender. One of the reasons that Sun Kings won so convincingly was Denis shutting down Frisby but in the first round against Ft Worth, Norbert Cottingham was able to get his. Neither one of those players is the scorer that Means is.

Prediction

It won't be easy for either team. Jackson and Means will likely balance out the scoring prowess of Richardson and Baum. The Stallions have more options up front in the post but no answer for Timothy Adler coming off the bench. Adler will be the difference maker in the series and propel St Louis back to the Finals. Sun Kings in 6.

 

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