Drones Dime (Playoff Edition, Rd.1): Drones Advance for the First Time in Franchise History

  • By David Gonzalez, Day 190, 2025

2025 Season, Eastern Conference Playoffs: Round 1

All-Time Record vs. Chicago Jailbirds (0-9)
Home Record: 0-6
Away Record: 0-3
Average score: 106.7 – 115.6
2025 Record: 0-3
2025 Avg. Score: 108.7 – 115

Game 1: Drones (0-0) vs. Jailbirds (0-0)

CHI Starting Lineup: Gordon – Cheaney – Howard – Willis – Stone
CHA Starting Lineup: Tarver – RW II – Wilkinson – Carroll - Anthony

Our first playoff series with home court advantage sees us missing our leader, Lucas Rush, who went down with a sore hamstring during our second to last regular season game. Reports from our doctors suggest this will be the only game we expect Rush to miss. Of course, the team we are matched up with is the only team we have yet to beat since we took over the Drones franchise prior to the start of the 2023 season. Chicago starts off hot jumping out to a 35-20 lead after one and 64-34 at the half and this one was over before it got going. The Beehive was eerily quiet for most of the night with the home fans packing it up early in the 3rd when the Drones fell down by 34 points and most would not see the final tally on the big scoreboard which read 112-99. Cheaney led the way for Chicago scoring 29 points on 11/27 shooting and 4/12 from 3P. Clarke and Van Bree would combine for 28 points, 10 boards and 7 assists off the bench as the Jailbirds second unit would outscore ours 43-27. Wilkinson would fill in well posting 19 points on 7/13 shooting and 3/6 from deep.

POTG: C Khalen Anthony (20.7 GmSc) 26p | 8r | 1a | 1s | 3b (12/20 FG, 1/2 3P, 1/3 FT)

Game 2: Drones (0-1) vs. Jailbirds (1-0)

CHI Starting Lineup: Gordon – Cheaney – Howard – Willis – Stone
CHA Starting Lineup: Tarver – Rush – RW II – Carroll - Anthony

Rush makes his return to the lineup and with our flexibility on the roster with who can play the two through four, we decide to put Rush on Cheaney to try and slow him down. The plan appeared to work as the Jailbirds star only scored 2 points through the first 6 minutes while we raced to a 19-7 lead. An advantage we would push to 38-21 by the end of one. The second quarter would go to the Jbirds as Dameon Clarke scored 13 points in the quarter to help close the gap to 59-51 by halftime. Much like the first, we would win the third quarter this time by a score of 33-26. By midway through the 4th, we stretch out the lead to 18 points and we tie up the series with a 113-103 win as we head to Chicago. This also marks the first time we have beaten this Chicago franchise. Rasheed Stone would lead the Jailbirds in scoring with 27 points while Cheaney added 26 on only 19 shots as Rush forced him into more of a playmaking role which of course he succeeded in with 10 assists. RW II posted a 27-13-6 line in his first start at SF, possibly ever or at minimum back to his rookie season. Anthony would post a 26-14 game which is a great for us as we expect him to be one of our top 3 scorers on any given night. Tarver who struggled in Game 1 had a nice bounce back game against his former club with a 12-6-11 night.

POTG: C Rasheed Stone (28.5 GmSc) 27p | 9r | 2a | 2b (12/15 FG, 0/1 3P, 3/5 FT)
CHA POTG: C Khalen Anthony (25.8 GmSc) 26p | 14r | 3a | 2b (10/18 FG, 1/2 3P, 5/6 FT)

Game 3: Drones (1-1) @ Jailbirds (1-1)

CHI Starting Lineup: Gordon – Cheaney – Howard – Willis – Stone
CHA Starting Lineup: Tarver – Rush – RW II – Carroll - Anthony

We roll out the same lineup in Chicago as we did in Game 2 and the first quarter goes well as we take a 25-23 lead after 1. The second quarter is dominated by the home team as our second unit takes a beating. By the time we head to the half, the Jailbirds are up 58-47 and we never really make a strong run as we go down 105-95. Our bench is outscored 29-15 as Dameon Clarke proved to be a tough matchup on this night. Rush did an evern better job on Cheaney tonight forcing him to take 23 shots to score 26 points and he was also limited to 5 assists. Khalen Anthony and RW II each had a poor evening combining for 21 points on 7/30 shooting.

POTG: Backup PF Dameon Clarke (23.9 GmSc) 21p | 9r | 5a | 1s | 1b (7/11 FG, 5/7 3P, 2/2 FT)
CHA POTG: SG Lucas Rush (23.6 GmSc) 29p | 10r | 3a | 4s (10/20 FG, 5/8 3P, 4/4 FT)

Game 4: Drones (1-2) @ Jailbirds (2-1)

CHI Starting Lineup: Gordon – Cheaney – Howard – Willis – Stone
CHA Starting Lineup: Tarver – Rush – RW II – Carroll - Anthony

Rinse and repeat of Game 3. Clarke once again dominates our second unit and our bench is outscored for the 4th straight game, this time 40-19 as Mitchell van Bree gets into the action with a 10-4-6 night and post a +20. Cheaney would again score 26, on 33 shots, as Rush continues to defend well; however, the star guard was able to pick up 11 assists in Game 4. Rush would give us 19-9-5 and RW II added 18 and 9 boards but our bench was beaten handedly. Our second unit has now been outscored 143-84 through the first four games.

POTG: Backup PF Dameon Clarke (26.7 GmSc) 26p | 8r | 4a | 4b (9/19 FG, 6/9 3P, 2/2 FT)
CHA POTG: C Khalen Anthony (15.1 GmSc) 20p | 10r | 3b (8/18 FG, 2/3 3P, 2/3 FT)

Game 5: Drones (1-3) vs. Jailbirds (3-1)

CHI Starting Lineup: Gordon – Cheaney – Howard – Willis – Stone
CHA Starting Lineup: Tarver – RW II – Carroll – Rush - Anthony

Down 3-1 and heading into what could be our final home game of 2025 it was time for lineup adjustment. After Dameon Clarke all but destroyed is in Chicago we knew we had to do something different so we decided to move Rush to the four so he would get more matchups against Clarke and would be better suited to guard him on the perimeter. We also put RW II back at the two knowing full well that would likely open up Cheaney but it was a risk we are willing to take at this point and Carroll likely matches up well against Howard so no real concern there on either side of the court. The biggest change is moving PF Lafayette Okonkwo out of the rotation as he is just not able to match up with the more versatile Clarke and instead we throw rookie forward Eric Holden into the mix as he is more of an all-around defender with athleticism and length.

The home crowd was in full throat as one might imagine and they help the home side get out to a 28-23 lead after one but Chicago would answer back and we head to the half 49-49 in what would turn out to be a tightly contested affair all night. The largest lead of the game for either side was 8 in a game which featured 15 ties and 9 lead changes. With just under three minutes to go in regulation, we had a 94-88 advantage and the ball. The subsequent possession would see Anthony get in trouble late in the shot clock and his pass was stolen by Rasheed Stone. Chicago, not in a panic, would run their offense through Chaeney who would knock down his 14th field goal of the game to make it 94-90. The next two possessions would see Anthony and Rush both miss three-point attempts and Cheaney scores on each of the subsequent possessions to tie the game up at 94 with 1:23 to go. Anthony would end our two-minute scoring drought with a nice drop step in the post. Cheaney would drive the ball into the paint only for Lucas Rush to come over from the weakside to sky over for the block. The loose ball was picked up by Howard who would find an open Cheaney who misses the 18-footer. The crowd lets out a huge groan as Rasheed Stone collects his 12th rebound and gets the easy put back to tie it at 96 with 0:33 to go. Coach Ford doesn’t call the timeout knowing we will get two possessions and Tarver ends up with a pretty good look around the basket that rims out with 0:12 to go. Chicago draws up a play out of the timeout that gets Cheaney the ball but he travels with 0:06 to go. Lucas Rush get the ball at the rim but is denied by Stone and van Bree secures the rebound with a second left. The Jailbirds draw up a wonderful inbounds play out of the timeout and Cheaney gets free for a series ending lay-up only for Devan Carroll to pin the shot against the backboard as time expires.

Overtime is back and forth as well with the key play coming with 0:11 left with Chicago down by 2. RW II picks off a Cheaney pass into the post and Willis is forced to foul and we knock down 4 free throws in the final eight seconds to starve off elimination and win 111-108. As expected, Cheaney went off scoring a series high 48 points on a series high 42 shots. They key; however, was Clarke was limited to 9 points on just 3/5 shooting and van Bree only scored 6 on 2/10 shooting. Our bench finished an even 18-18 on this night and although Holden would finish with a team worst -10 his length and ability to defend Clarke forced the ball to move out of his hands. Anthony would score a team high 26 points with RW II adding in 22 on 9/12 shooting and 3/5 from 3P.

POTG: SG Jason Cheaney (29.1 GmSc) 48p | 5r | 4a | 5s (19/42 FG, 3/11 3P, 7/7 FT)
CHA POTG: SF Devan Carroll (21.5 GmSc) 22p | 10r | 6a | 4s | 2b (9/18 FG, 1/4 3P, 3/4 FT)

Game 6: Drones (2-3) @ Jailbirds (3-2)

CHI Starting Lineup: Gordon – Cheaney – Howard – Willis – Stone
CHA Starting Lineup: Tarver – RW II – Carroll – Rush - Anthony

A tough task ahead as we head to Chicago for another elimination game. We roll out the same unit as we did for Game 5 and it’s a high scoring affair after the first as we trail 34-33. We get event hotter in the second as we post a 40-point quarter with Carroll scoring 13 and head into the break up 73-61. The lead is maintained throughout the second half until we forget how to score between 4:35 and 0:47 to go in the game as Chicago erases a 9-point deficit. RW II’s third triple on the night with 0:47 to go puts us back up by two and we get a huge stop on the defensive end and subsequent basket by Rush on our next possession which is enough for us to hold on (119-116) and force a game 7 back in Charlotte. Cheaney torches us again, this time for 44 points on just 25 shots as he has his best game of the series. The story again is how our bench has turned it around as we actually outscore Chicago 30-17 in Game 6. Eric Holden would post 10 & 5 and Caius Springer contributed 12 points on 5/9 shooting. Carroll would once again take advantage of his considerable height advantage over Dennis Howard scoring 29 on 11/15 shooting and also pulling down 11 boards. RW II has another fine all-around game in this series going for 24-7-5 and Lucas Rush would post a 21-4-5-2-3 line showing off the versatility that makes him so valuable for us.

POTG: SG Jason Cheaney (28.6 GmSc) 44p | 3a | 1s (16/25 FG, 7/11 3P, 5/9 FT)
CHA POTG: SF Devan Carroll (27.5 GmSc) 29p | 10r | 1a | 2b (11/15 FG, 3/6 3P, 4/5 FT)

Game 7: Drones (3-3) vs. Jailbirds (3-3)

CHI Starting Lineup: Gordon – Cheaney – Howard – Willis – Stone
CHA Starting Lineup: Tarver – RW II – Carroll – Rush - Anthony

What else can one ask for then having a shot to win a Game 7 at home after trailing three games to one. As you’d expect the energy inside the Beehive was off the charts as we jump out to a 35-26 advantage after one. Rush would score 7 of his 19 in the first and Anthony added 8 of his 18 in the quarter to set us up. Chicago would close the gap and tie the game towards the final minutes of the half before we end the quarter on a 5-0 run to lead 58-52 at the half. The third and much of the fourth would see us cling to a minor advantage as Game 7 and each team’s season would come down to a 3 minutes stretch in the fourth.

With the score 95-91, Antoine Willis would make just his 4th triple of the series to pull the Jailbirds within one. Carroll would get a good look from deep on our next possession and it clanged off the rim too strong with Howard pulling down the board. With the chance to take the lead, the ball would of course be in the hands of Jason Cheaney who could not make the long jumper; however, van Bree would postion himself nicely for the rebound and putback to give Chicago a 96-95 lead with 2:27 left. Tarver would make a nice backdoor cut and Anthony sees the opening from the high post and feeds it to DeAngelo for the easy lay-in and we are back on top 97-96. Following a Chicago timeout, Cheaney hoists up a quick three which is long and he’s now 3/11 on the game from distance. Carroll would secure the rebound and we work the clock (2:07 remaining). Lucas Rush misses an off-balanced 3 with two seconds left on the shot clock, but RW II secures the offensive board and sixteen seconds later we draw the 5th foul a Cheaney. With a fresh shot clock, we continue to milk time and this time is Tarver who misses a long three with 1:11 left and Howard skies for his 12th board on the night. Cheaney is unable to find a shot he likes but Willis gets great post position and scores to give the Jailbirds back the lead (98-97) with 0:59 to play. Much like Game 5, Coach Ford lets them play as we work the ball to the high post for Anthony. He finds RW II who launches a long three and buries it. He had been 0/4 in the game from distance prior to that attempt and we are now up 100-98. Chicago would finish the game 1/6 from the floor as we knock down 8/8 free throws to clinch our first postseason series win! Final score 108-102.

All five starters would end up in double digits with our bench winning the battle 26-24 as well. We can’t be more proud of the fight this team showed in coming back from a 3-1 deficit and now we are off to Cincinnati…

POTG: SF Devan Carroll (21.5 GmSc) 20p | 9r | 6a | 3s | 2b (7/10 FG, 1/3 3P, 5/6 FT)