Photography by Gary Lloyd McCullough.

Photography by Gary Lloyd McCullough.

An early nine-point deficit did not demoralize a seasoned Jacksonville Giants team. The Giants regrouped and rallied to a 92-80 win over Chicago’s Windy City Groove in Game 1 of the ABA Championship Finals. Two-time ABA All-Star Maurice Mickens scored a team-high 20 points, which included four three-point baskets on the evening. Former ABA MVP Jermaine Bell was second in scoring with 16 points. Jacksonville is now one win away from a third ABA National Championship in the franchise’s six-year history.

“We are excited to be in this position to win our third National Championship,” said Giants head coach Kevin Waters. “I am extremely proud of my players and the Giants organization.”

Windy City set the tempo of the game early on , as the Groove took an early lead and ended the first quarter with a 26-25 advantage. Windy City, as a team, landed four-three pointers in the first quarter, which put the Giants in an early hole. Levonte Douglas led the Groove with a team-high 16 points while Adonis Bailey and Nate Fuqua both had 14 total points

After a few minor adjustments, the Giants got their first lead of the game one minute into the second quarter and never looked back. Jacksonville went on a three-point scoring streak in the second quarter as Bell, Mickens, and Jerome Clyburn all converted threes which helped shift the momentum. The outside shooting game was successful and so was the inside game. Calvin Warner continued his dominant play in the low post, scoring 13 points in the game which helped the Giants take a 51-42 halftime lead.

“After the Groove jumped out to a nine-point lead we were able to regroup,” said Giants assistant coach Jerry Williams. “Tonight’s game was one of the best games I have seen us play all year.”

The second half was more of the same from the Giants. Windy City could not regain the lead as the Jacksonville defense all but eliminated the Grooves outside shooting with tenacious defense. Warner, Elijah Smith, and Jerrod Tucker were key defensive leaders for Jacksonville. The Giants continued to mix up their defensive strategy and substitutions to keep the team fresh for a final run in the fourth quarter.

Offensively the Giants continued the scoring output, keeping a double-digit lead for a majority of the third and fourth quarters. The team stayed consistent with their shooting and focused on spreading the ball around to find the open scoring opportunity. Mickens and Bell continued to land clutch shots putting Jacksonville in a 78-65 lead at the conclusion of the third quarter.

The Giants will now refocus their energy on a Game 2 showdown with the Groove on Saturday at 7PM Central time. If the Giants win they will be the 2015-16 ABA National Champions. A loss will put them in a Game 3 Final with the Groove on Sunday. The Giants look to bring a third ABA National Championship back to the City of Jacksonville. The team won back-to-back ABA National Championships in 2012 and 2013 against the South Carolina Warriors and the Dallas Vandals.