Coming into Saturday night’s showdown, the only two teams to have won the NBL Canada championship had split the previous four meeting this season. The London Lightning and the Windsor Express had won two games apiece against one another in the season series.
Last time the two teams met, the Express ended London’s winning streak in the Clash at the Colosseum III, taking home a 114-93 win inside Caesars Windsor. London was looking for a bit of redemption on Saturday, while the Express were looking to make up more ground in the race for the Central Division title.
It was a low scoring affair for both teams, given their seasonal averages. Much like their second meeting of the season, the game came down to the wire.
Tony Bennett hit a pair of free throws with 19.9 seconds on the clock to give Windsor an 86-85 lead. They had four fouls to give, and they used each one to stall London on the offensive end of the floor. They drew up a play, and Ryan Anderson got off a three point shot from the corner. It bounced off the rim, bounced out, and the game was over.
It was stressful down the stretch, but the Windsor Express came away with the hard-fought 86-85 victory over the London Lightning.
Windsor got off to a hot start, opening the game with a three pointer from Brandon Robinson. He scored 6 of the Express’ first 8 points, who opened the game on an 11-5 run.
It was raining three pointers for the Express early on, as they were 4-of-6 as a team by the first media timeout. But, London continued to chip away, and tried to cut into Windsor’s lead. Anderson hit a corner three to bring London to within 5, but Chris Collins answered with a 3 for the Express.
Alex Johnson made sure the Express went into the break with a shot of momentum, beating the buzzer for a layup to give Windsor a 32-25 lead after the first quarter.
Warren Ward opened the second quarter with a three for the Lightning, and Garrett Williamson followed that up with a fast-break slam to cut the deficit to 3, at 34-31.
London would continue to chip away, using strong play on both ends of the floor to take their first lead of the contest. Williamson came up with a big block on defense, and Stephen Maxwell finished off glass on the other end to bring London within a single point, forcing Windsor to take a timeout in the process.
Out of the break, Williamson came up with a steal, and Maxwell went down for a high intensity slam to give London a 37-36 lead. Nick Okorie would connect on a jumper shortly thereafter to push the lead to 39-37.
Like London did to start the quarter, Windsor would fight back and retake the lead. A dunk in transition from Robinson gave Windsor a three-point lead. They would build on the lead as the quarter came to a close, taking a 49-43 lead into the half-time break.
Windsor would slowly build their lead in the early parts of the third quarter. A three pointer from Collins pushed the lead to 62-51. Maxwell and Okorie would connect on back-to-back possessions to cut the deficit down to 8, but Windsor would push it back to 11 again on a long ball from Bennett.
A 9-0 run from the Lightning brought them back to within 2 points, as Anderson, Ward, and Mustafaa Jones all connected on three pointers. Just like quarter one, Robinson beat the buzzer with a jumper to give the Express a 74-70 lead heading into the final frame.
London opened the final quarter on a tear, going on a 7-0 run to take a 77-74 lead. Chad Posthumus scored 4 of his 8 fourth-quarter points in the run to put London ahead.
Maurice Bolden connected on a three to tie things at 77-all, and it was a back-and-forth final few minutes.
London opened up an 84-80 lead on a slam from Posthumus, but left several points at the free throw line over the course of the evening. The missed opportunities allowed Windsor to hang around until the end, and the Express took full advantage.
Down 85-84, Bennett was fouled on his way to the basket, and promptly made both free throws. The Express had four fouls to give on London’s next possession, and used them all to stall the Lightning’s offense.
With under 10 seconds to go, the Lightning got the ball into Posthumus, and the ball found its way into the hands of Anderson. With a chance to burn his former team, Anderson put up a three from the corner that bounced off the rim and bounced out. Windsor came down with the rebound, and that was all she wrote.
The Express held on down the stretch and came away with the 86-85 win over the London Lightning.
All five starters for the Express scored in double figures on the night. Chris Commons scored a team-high 21 points to go along with 8 rebounds and 3 steals, while Shaquille Keith added 18 points and 4 assists of his own.
Tony Bennett finished with 14 points, none bigger than the two free throws at the end of the game to put the Express ahead for good, and added 7 assists and 5 rebounds in the win.
For the Lightning, the usual suspects led the way again. Warren Ward scored a game-high 27 points, shooting 7-of-12 from three point range on the night. Stephen Maxwell recorded 18 points and 6 rebounds in the loss.
Ryan Anderson struggled from the field on the night, going just 3-of-14 from the floor for 8 points. Nick Okorie chipped in with 10 points and 6 assists.
The London Lightning (13-4) have a couple days off before they return to the hardwood for back-to-back games on Wednesday and Thursday. The Lightning have a home-and-home series with the Niagara River Lions, playing in London on Wednesday before heading to St. Catharines on Thursday.