Drive celebrate title, dominate PBL

By Marc Strauss

April 15, 2012 Updated Apr 15, 2012 at 10:30 PM CDT

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. -- First-year franchises aren't supposed to celebrate championships.  They're not supposed to win 22 of their 23 games or sweep a team that's captured 3 of the last 4 league titles.

But that's exactly what the Drive did this season, their first in the Premier Basketball League. 

Saturday's 101-80 victory over Rochester validated the decision to bring a pro hoops to Bloomington and rewarded the courage of owners Scott Henderson and Jim Bob Morris to hire a young coach from Peoria who had no head coaching experience.

"I'm just starting," said Drive coach A.J. Guyton, "I'm in my first year coaching and I lose one game.  I really don't know what losing feels like.  I'm scared to go on to the next level and go get my butt kicked a few times and don't know how to act.  But I was well prepared, from Chuck Buescher to Bobby Knight, well prepared to run a basketball team.  If I choose to do that in my career I think I'll have decent success at it."

Guyton's certainly off to a good start.  And he gets to share this title with his brother, Dan Ruffin, one of the first players the team purdued when it began assembling a roster.

"A.J. and the organization did a great job putting the team together," said Ruffin, a former standout guard at Bradley University and Peoria High School.  "A lot of guys came together and were willing to play with each other.  We just bought into what coach was trying to do and it worked out well for him."

It certainly worked out well for point guard Perry Petty.  One of the last cuts from the NBA's D-League team in Reno, Petty was immediately approached by Guyton and evolved into perhaps the Drive's most valuable player.

"I feel like we were able to dominate teams defensively," said Petty, who led the Drive with 21 points in Saturday's clincher.

We always came into each game with a defensive mindset and approach.  We always imposed our will on the teams.  This team has great chemistry.  No one cares whose doing what or when they're doing it.  We all just came together and we had one common goal and we accomplished that."