The Burning River Buckets bring the thrills of a winning team back for another season

Burning River Buckets Team 1022
Burning River Buckets games will appeal to both serious devotees of the game looking to watch highly competitive play, as well as families seeking a memorable yet affordable night out.

By Patricia Nugent

When it comes to the professional basketball season in Lake County, as Yogi Berra used to say…it ain’t over ’til it’s over.

Last season, our Burning River Buckets defied all odds for a new expansion team, winning the American Basketball Association North Central Region Championship in an upset, and going on to finish in eighth place at the national finals in Baltimore.

GM and Founder George Phillips credits the championship with the collective objective of belief.

“Our players fought tooth and nail like champions and never stopped believing,” he says. “Everything fell into place. The formula of great local basketball talent, led by our terrific Head Coach Patrick Koenig, and an ultra-loyal fan base made it possible for us to bring home the championship. And this year, I’m predicting this right now—you can print this—we are going to go all the way at nationals and will win the whole thing.”

Throughout the season, the numbers of fans multiplied. People were hooked.

“There’s nowhere else in town you can have a great night out for $10,” says George.

The 2022-2023 season kicks off in a few weeks, on Saturday, November 5, against the Ohio Bruins. (This particular team might have a little score to settle, since it’s the one the Buckets beat for the regional championship.)

Buster, the mascot, has become a star around town, going to the Hometown Heroes celebration, local schools and even birthday parties.

Scouting Report: The Squad Returns
Our Buckets team is stacked with talented players from all over Northeast Ohio, and every player from last season’s winning squad is returning, including Justin Fritts, who played for Wheeling University (former Mr. Ohio Basketball); Cole Krizancic, who played for Ashland University, both from Mentor High School; and Willoughby South grad and Edinboro University standout Anthony Coleman, just to name a few.

“As the season progressed last year, our players found their chemistry together and really hit their stride entering the playoffs,” says Coach Koenig, who is himself a local gem, playing and coaching at Notre Dame College. “It means a lot to our guys to continue playing professionally after college. That competitive itch never goes away. For me as a coach, it’s wonderful to watch them embrace their individual roles on the floor. That’s gratifying and I’m thankful for how hard everyone is working now to make this season just as amazing.”

The Fan-Friendly Experience
Buckets games provide highly competitive play that’s thrilling to watch along with loads of fun.

“This year we have a dance team that will entertain during halftime,” says George. “We’re also arranging for live singing of the National Anthem. Fans will enjoy novelty gifts, including cowbells intended to annoy opposing teams. It’ll all be overseen by our lovable rascal, Buster the mascot. Buster has become a star around town, going to the Hometown Heroes celebration, local schools and even birthday parties.”

The Burning River Buckets schedule officially kicks off with a home game the first weekend in November. Below is the upcoming 2022-2023 home game shedule which are on Saturdays except for the last game in February.

  • November 5 vs. the Ohio Bruins
  • November 12 vs. the Akron Aviators
  • November 26 vs. the Steel City Yellow Jackets
  • December 10 vs. the Beaver County Indians
  • January 7 vs. the Indiana Lyons
  • January 14 vs. the Ohio Bruins
  • January 28 vs. the Akron Aviators
  • February 19 vs. Ohio Kings

Tickets are on sale now for the 2022-2023 schedule of the Burning River Buckets. Cost is $10 per person, free for kids under 5, military personnel and veterans. Games take place at the Mentor Athletic Complex at 6477 Center Street. Sponsorship opportunities are available. Visit for the full schedule and more information, or follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @burningbuckets.