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Published: Thursday, 1/26/2006

Okonkwo, Bates team for 61 points in Ice rout

BY ADAM THOMPSON
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

The Toledo Ice (14-10) won its third straight game and moved within a half-game of Pittsburgh for second place in the Freddie Lewis Division of the American Basketball Association after knocking off the Ohio Aviators 164-96 in front of nearly 300 people at the SeaGate Centre last night.

But the Ice can finish third and still reach the postseason - now that the playoff format has been expanded to 24 teams.

With emotions high from beating the first-place Indiana Alley Cats on Tuesday, Toledo opened the game on a 16-2 run.

Emeka Okonkwo paved the way with 32 points, while Aaron Bates posted 29 for the Ice.

Lamar Rice and Jamel Staten dropped in 24 points apiece and Jake Beck contributed 16. Soloman Edwards and Gameli Ahelegbe recorded 11 and 10, respectively.

What started off as an ABA game turned quickly into an And1 Mixed Tape Tour street game with high-flying dunks, ankle-breaking moves and no-look passes.

Ice coach Melvin Newbern said his team used the blowout to work out some kinks.

"Even though the score was lopsided, we just wanted to get out and get off to a good start," he said. "The defensive effort was great. It was an overall team effort and we were able to take the ball to the basket. We just have to continue to play with confidence and believe in one another."

Rice, a former Clemson player, started the game on fire with six straight points, including an alley-oop from Staten. Staten and Jamel Gooding scored five points each in the first five minutes.

The Ice built an 18-point lead with 3:40 left in the first quarter, after Staten buried his third 3-pointer and Levy Jones bullied his way underneath for a layup.

Toledo finished the quarter on an 8-2 run and was up 37-14 after the first 12 minutes.

The Ice went on a 13-5 run to begin the second quarter, led by nine from Okonkwo and a highlight-reel dunk by Bates, who soared over three Aviators, en route to a 52-23 lead. An 8-2 spurt to end the first half gave the Ice a 75-41 advantage.

Rice dropped in six points during a 12-6 run to begin the second half, and the Ice ran away in the third quarter on an assortment of fast-break dunks and alley-oops that led to a 53-point advantage.

Newbern is pleased with his team's shot selection during the winning streak.

"Our last couple of games we passed up a bad shot and looked for a good shot, and if we continue to do that, then we will be all right," he said.

"We play hard every game and we feel we can win every night," Rice said after his fifth game. "There are a lot of players on this team that can play, so if someone is not playing, we've got someone else who can step up."

Jabari Mathews registered 33 points for Ohio (4-13).

Contact Adam Thompson at: athompson@theblade.com

or 419-724-6110.



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