The 2015-16 NBL Canada season isn’t even a month old, and Thursday night marked the third meeting of the season between the visiting Niagara River Lions and the host London Lightning.
Coming into the night, the teams were coming off different outcomes in their last outings. London used a big comeback on the weekend to take down the Orangeville A’s on the road, while the River Lions faltered down the stretch in their loss to the Windsor Express. Both teams were looking to put together a complete 48-minute performance on Thursday, and come away with a momentum-building win.
It was back and forth to open the first quarter, but London started to gain momentum as the first quarter came to a close. Once London took the lead, they held down their home court with a firm grip, not letting the River Lions back in front throughout the game.
Niagara made the score a bit closer in garbage time, but the London Lightning cruised to the 107-93 victory over the River Lions.
Early on in the game, the River Lions took advantage of some slow transition defense from the Lightning. Marcus Lewis was on the receiving end of an outlet pass from Sammy Zeglinski following a basket from the Lightning, leading to an easy slam dunk. The dunk promoted London head coach Kyle Julius to call a timeout.
Whatever was said in the huddle must have set in with his players, at least for the time being, as Chad Posthumus threw down a dunk of his own in the paint out of the break.
One key that was outlined in the College Court Report preview of the game was rebounding. Early on, London struggled on the glass on both ends of the floor.
Late in the first quarter, Posthumus battled Lewis for a rebound on the defensive end, and the River Lions had three good opportunities. They were unable to find the bottom of the basket, and Posthumus drew a foul on Lewis in the process.
As the game wore on, Niagara would continue to win the rebounding battle, but that didn’t matter in terms of the overall score. Thanks to back-to-back lay-ups from Tyshawn Patterson to close out the half, London held a commanding 61-45 lead over the River Lions, and they showed no signs of slowing down.
In the third quarter, London would stretch their lead to as many as 23 points, doing so with 5:07 to play in the quarter. Credit the River Lions for continuing to fight, and keeping the game from blowing wide open, but they simply couldn’t keep up with the Lightning on offense.
Whenever Niagara would look to make a run, the Lightning had an answer on offense to put an end to the momentum, and take the wind out of the sails of the River Lions.
London had things pretty well on cruise control as the fourth quarter wound down, and they came away with the 107-93 victory over the Niagara River Lions.
Prior to the game, two keys that were identified for the River Lions were to win the battle on the glass, and capitalize on missed free throws by the Lightning. In terms of rebounding, Niagara showed why they are the league-s top rebounding team, holding a 61-47 edge in terms of overall rebounds.
As for the free throws, London shot 75% from the free throw line, which is up from their 70% seasonal average. That limited Niagara’s opportunities in the category.
The biggest issue for the River Lions on the night was ball security. They committed 26 total turnovers in the game, including 9 from Sammy Zeglinski alone.
Logan Stutz, the league’s leading scorer, put together another double-double performance in the loss. He scored a game-high 28 points to go along with 20 rebounds. He had a double-double with over 6 minutes left in the second quarter.
Da’Quan Cook added 15 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists of his own, while Adam Blazek scored 10 points and pulled down 4 rebounds in the loss.
For the Lightning, they played to their strengths, and it worked out well. They out-shot the River Lions from three-point range, and that was one of their keys to victory.
London shot poor by their standards from long distance, connecting on 28% (7-of-25) of their attempts. On defense, they held Niagara to just 2-of-16 (12.5%) from three-point range. Those five extra made three point field goals were ultimately the difference in the game.
Forward Stephen Maxwell continued his strong play in his rookie NBL Canada campaign, putting together another double-double performance to lead the Lightning to the win. He scored a team-high 26 points to go along with 13 rebounds, shooting 10-of-17 from the field in the process.
Tyshawn Patterson added 21 points and 6 rebounds, while Nick Okorie added 15 points and 6 assists in his second game of the season after returning from injury.
The loss was the second straight for the Niagara River Lions (2-5), who find themselves at the bottom of the Central Division in their first season in the league. Despite the loss, the River Lions remain optimistic about their chances this season, and if they can improve their ball security moving forwards, there’s no telling what this team can accomplish. Niagara will head out East to close out their four game road-trip, and they will take on the Island Storm on Saturday.
The win gave the London Lightning (5-2) their second two-game winning streak of the season. They appear to be firing on all cylinders, and the addition of Akeem Wright to the roster and the return of Nick Okorie has added another level of depth to the bench and the rotation. The Lightning will look to keep their winning streak going on Saturday night when they head on the road to take on the Orangeville A’s.