Coming into Sunday afternoon’s game, the Windsor Express were playing their third game in as many days, and the London Lightning were playing their second game in two days. Fatigue was to be expected, and both teams showed that early on.
After an 0-2 start to their season, the Express came to London riding a two-game winning streak. Windsor knocked off Orangeville on Friday and Niagara on Saturday, and were looking to complete a perfect weekend with their third-straight victory.
As for the Lightning, after losing to the Niagara River Lions in their home opener inside the Meridian Centre, they have won back-to-back games on their home floor. London beat Windsor in their first meeting of the season back on December 29th, 95-79, and took down Orangeville on Saturday.
London stretched their lead to as many as 18 points in the first half, but Windsor fought all the way back in the second half, and got some late-game heroics from Brandon Robinson to escape London with a 94-91 victory, thus completing their perfect 3-0 weekend.
Both teams looked sluggish in the opening minutes, which was to be expected. Chris Commons opened the game with a three ball for the Express, while the Lightning were held off the scoreboard for over 2 minutes.
The entire first quarter was a feeling-out process, as both teams looked to find ways to put points on the board. With 6:44 remaining in the first, Jordan Weidner was fouled on a three point attempt, and proceeded to make all three free throw attempts to push London ahead early on, 7-5.
Windsor and London both struggled to get things set up on the offensive end of the floor, and that was a trend throughout the entire game.
The Lightning built up a bit of momentum as the quarter came to a close, as Weidner and Tyshawn Patterson hit back-to-back three pointers with under a minute to play in the quarter to give London as 19-14 lead. Windsor would get a late bucket to draw within 3, at 19-16, as the quarter came to a close.
London took full control of the game in the first half of the second quarter, opening with an 11-1 run to push their lead to 30-17. Patterson scored 5 straight points to close the run, and 8 straight overall after Windsor ended the run.
Overall, the Lightning went on an 18-5 run, and their lead was stretched to 37-21, prompting a timeout from Windsor head coach Trent Jones.
Whatever was said in the timeout worked, as the second half of the quarter was all about the Express. Windsor closed the half on a 15-4 run of their own to make a game out of things. Windsor trailed the Lightning at the break, 41-36, but had the momentum square in their corner.
The Express also had two technical fouls in the quarter, one on Coach Jones and one on Kirk Williams, Jr. Fortunately for Windsor, London only made one of two free throws as a result of the fouls.
Windsor opened the third quarter right where they left off in the first half, scoring 5 straight points to tie things at 41-all and completely eliminate London’s double-digit lead from the second quarter.
London head coach Kyle Julius was left looking for any sort of positive on the offensive end, which led to Weidner being replaced by Mustafaa Jones, who played his college basketball with the Fairleigh Dickinson Knights.
After not playing in Saturday night’s game, Jones looked eager to make an impact. On his first field goal attempt of the game, Jones connected on a three pointer to give London a slim 50-47 lead. If you would have asked Coach Julius after the game, I’m sure he’d say that’s exactly how he drew things up.
Despite Jones’ immediate impact, the third quarter was all about Windsor. They held the Lightning to just 15 points, and took a 9-point lead into the fourth and final quarter, 65-56.
Windsor took their third technical foul of the game in the quarter, with Brandon Robinson earning the foul for “stirring the pot” in the face of Lightning guard Kevin Loiselle. Again, London missed the free throw, leaving another point on the floor.
London opened the fourth quarter with a renewed sense of urgency, going on a 9-2 run of their own to cut the deficit to 67-65. The back-and-forth action was just getting started, and fans inside Budweiser Gardens were treated to one heck of a finale.
The technical fouls would continue to pile up, as Loiselle picked one up for London. After taking a bump and going to the floor holding his shoulder, Loiselle got up, let out a loud scream to get the crowd fired up, and had some choice words for the official on his way to the bench. Like London, Windsor missed the free throw, but wouldn’t waste the ensuing possession.
Maurice Bolden drove the lane for the Express, throwing down the high intensity slam to push Windsor in front, 76-71. Patterson would answer for the Lightning, hitting a three pointer to cut the deficit to 2 points.
The back-and-forth action continued, as Commons hit a lay-up for Windsor, only to have Garrett Williamson hit another three pointer to bring London to within a single point, at 78-77.
Both teams continue to trade baskets as the game came to a close, Williamson made 1-of-2 free throws with 17 seconds to tie the game at 91-all, thus giving Windsor another opportunity to take the lead. With 5 seconds left on the clock, Robinson threw a dagger at the Lightning, hitting a three pointer to give Windsor the 94-91 lead.
On the way up the floor, Coach Julius tried to call a timeout, but referees didn’t notice. Patterson got off a good look from long distance to tie the game. But, it clanked off the rim, and Windsor escaped London with the 94-91 victory.
The win capped off a perfect 3-0 weekend for the Windsor Express. All five starters scored in double-figures on the afternoon, led by Chris Commons, who scored a team-high 20 points in the win. Kirk Williams, Jr. recorded a double-double of 12 points and 14 rebounds, while Brandon Robinson added 17 points, 8 rebounds, and 7 assists for an all-around solid performance.
For the Lightning, several of their stars struggled on the day. Warren Ward, Garrett Williamson, Chad Posthumus, and Jeremy Wise were a combined 6-of-19 from the floor for 17 points.
Tyshawn Patterson continued his strong play for the Lightning this season, scoring a game-high 29 points in the loss. Stephen Maxwell recorded another double-double on the day, adding 22 points and 14 rebounds.
The win was the third straight, and third in three day, for the Windsor Express (3-2). They have seemingly put their 0-2 start behind them, and the two-time defending NBL Canada champions are starting to roll. Windsor returns to the court on Tuesday night when they go on the road to take on the Niagara River Lions.
The London Lightning (3-2) saw their two-game winning streak come to an end, and the loss to the Express was their first on their home floor in 2015-16. A positive for the team was having Garrett Williamson back healthy after missing a pair of games due to injury. London will look to get back on track come January 10th, when they go on the road to take on the Orangeville A’s.