RECAP: London Lightning Pull Away in Closing Minutes to Top the Niagara River Lions 123-114

After missing the past couple of games due to the birth of his second child, Akeem Wright returned to the Lightning lineup on Wednesday night, recording 13 points and 7 rebounds as London took down the Niagara River Lions. (Source: Stu Switzer)
After missing the past couple of games due to the birth of his second child, Akeem Wright returned to the Lightning lineup on Wednesday night, recording 13 points and 7 rebounds as London took down the Niagara River Lions. (Source: Stu Switzer)

For anyone in the world, family comes first.

London Lightning forward Akeem Wright missed the team’s previous two games to be with his family as they welcomed his second son into the world. After taking some much-needed time away, Wright said that everyone was doing well, and he made his return to the hardwood.

On Wednesday night, Wright was a welcome addition back into the lineup as the Lightning took on the visiting Niagara River Lions on a snowy night in London, ON. Akeem showed a bit of rust early on, but shook it off as the game moved along.

It was a back-and-forth affair for 45 minutes, before London pulled away as the game wound down. A 7-0 run broke a 113-all tie, and sent them to their league-leading 14th victory of the season.

Wright finished the game with 13 points, 7 assists, 3 blocks, and 4 rebounds as London came away with a hard-fought 123-114 victory over the Niagara River Lions.

London opened the game on a 7-0 run, and forward Stephen Maxwell was flexing his muscle from the get-go. He scored five points in the run, and 7 of the first 9 points overall for London.

As quick as the Lightning opened a big lead, the River Lions stormed back to take a lead of their own. Billy Rush hit a three to get Niagara on the board, and Da’Quan Cook followed that up with a layup to cut the deficit down to 7-5.

Before the Lightning fans knew it, the River Lions were ahead 19-13 thanks to a layup from Chris Johnson on a second-chance opportunity.

The Lightning would continue to fight as the quarter came to a close. Warren Ward would connect on a three pointer to bring London within 3 points, but the River Lions would push their lead back to 29-24 before the quarter was out.

To open the second quarter, Ryan Anderson brought the Lightning back all by himself, scoring five straight to open the quarter and tie the game at 29-all. Niagara would eventually find an answer, and a layup off the window from Adam Blazek restored the River Lions’ 3 point lead.

Back and forth the teams would go over the next few minutes, trading leads faster than a game of hot potato. Eventually, London would start to separate themselves from Niagara, opening up an 8-point lead before Niagara was forced to take a timeout.

Whatever was said in the timeout worked, as the River Lions reeled off a 6-0 run out of the break, with Blazek scoring 4 points to lead the charge. Down the stretch, Maxwell made four free throws to send London into half-time with a 62-56 advantage.

Cook and Maxwell traded baskets to get quarter three off on a fast note. Then, Nick Okorie and Sammy Zeglinski traded baskets, and the lead was 66-61 for the Lightning.

Zeglinski opened the second half on fire, scoring 8 early points to spearhead the comeback efforts for the River Lions. A technical foul on Okorie led to a free throw for Zeglinski, then Logan Stutz followed that up with two free throws of his own, and Niagara was back in front by 1.

Add 6 more points for Zeglinski, and the River Lions opened up a 76-71 lead before Tyshawn Patterson drove the lane for a layup to cut into the lead for London.

Okorie hit a deep three pointer a little later in the quarter to tie things up at 86-all, but Stutz responded with a three-point play of his own to push Niagara back in front, 89-86.

London got into foul trouble late in the quarter, exceeding the limit and putting the River Lions at the free throw line on several occasions. Cook and Stutz each made free throws to extend Niagara’s lead to 92-86 as the clock ticked away in the quarter. Maxwell finished with a layup in the lane, and Anderson hit a corner three to bring the Lightning to within 1 as the quarter came to a close.

Niagara took a slim 92-91 lead into the fourth and final frame.

In the early parts of the final quarter, Niagara would hold onto their lead. The Lightning were doing their best to cut into the lead and overtake the River Lions on both ends of the floor. Wright came up with a big block on defense, then went the other way and connected on a three pointer to cut the deficit down to 98-96 with plenty of time left on the clock.

Stutz went back and responded with a three of his own to push Niagara’s lead back to 5 point, at 101-96.

London would eventually take a lead of their own. Maxwell put in an acrobatic layup while being fouled, and made the ensuing free throw to the the game at 105-all. Ward followed that up with a layup of his own, and London was in front by 2.

The teams would go back and forth once more, and with the score tied at 113-all, London took over for good. The Lightning went on a 7-0 run to open up a 120-113 lead, and the game was all but over.

Anderson hit another three pointer for good measure to push the lead to 123-114, and the game was over.

They had to work for it, but the London Lightning came away with the 123-114 win over the Niagara River Lions inside Budweiser Gardens.

For the River Lions, the production from their bench was what ultimately did them in. The starters for the River Lions combined for 100 points, with the bench only contributing 14. Forward Logan Stutz led the way for Niagara, scoring a game-high 37 points to go along with 19 rebounds in a losing effort.

Da’Quan Cook added 19 points of his own, while Sammy Zeglinski flirted with a triple-double, recording 23 points, 10 assists, and 7 rebounds in the loss.

As for the London Lightning, a balanced scoring attack led the way. Six different players scored in double-figures, and 9 of the 11 players who checked in scored at least 2 points. Stephen Maxwell recorded yet another double-double, pouring in 32 points on 12-of-19 shooting and pulling down 15 rebounds.

Warren Ward recorded 12 points and 9 rebounds, Nick Okorie added 13 points and 9 assists, while Ryan Anderson came off the bench to score 27 points in the win.

Looking Ahead

The London Lightning (14-4) pushed their league-leading record to 10 games above .500, while the Niagara River Lions (5-12) are looking to get back on the winning track. Both teams meet again on Thursday night in the back-end of their home-and-home series, taking the court inside the Meridian Centre at 7pm.

– T.B.