Thursday night was a tale of two halves for both the London Lightning and the Windsor Express. When one team excelled, the other faltered.
The last two times these teams have faced off, the Express cane away victorious both times out. With that fresh in their mind, the Lightning were hoping to get some revenge on their 401 rivals.
London had a memorable first half, while Windsor struggled to find their groove on both ends of the floor. With 4:34 to play in the second quarter, London had a 28-point lead. They held the Express to just 15 points in the quarter, taking a 21-point lead into the break.
In the second half, the roles were reversed.
Windsor came out with a vengeance, and eliminated London’s lead in the fourth quarter. Lightning fans were uneasy, but the stars for the Lightning stepped it up in the closing minutes to ensure their strong first half didn’t go to waste.
They had to work for it down the stretch, and the game went back and forth in the closing minutes. But, in the end, the London Lightning came away with the 104-98 victory over the Windsor Express.
Both teams struggled from the field to open the game. It took nearly two minutes before either team found the scoreboard. Shaquille Keith scored five straight points for the Express to push them to an early 5-0 lead.
Akeem Wright and Nick Okorie hit back-to-back three pointers to get London on the board, and give the Lightning a 6-5 lead.
As the half wore on, the Express would hold onto a slim lead. Wright and Brandon Robinson would trade long balls, and the Express held a 14-12 advantage.
With the score 18-14 in favour of the Express, London found another gear on offense and took control of the first quarter. Okorie hustled for a loose ball that was heading out of bounds and threw a no-look lob pass over his head to Marcus Capers for an alley-oop slam to get the Lightning crowd into the game.
The slam by Capers kicked off a 12-0 run for the Lightning, pushing them in front by 8 when all was said and done, at 26-18. They would take a 26-20 lead into the break.
In the second quarter, London picked up right where they left off in the first. They opened the quarter on a 14-2 run to push their advantage to 40-22, and that was the start of things to come.
Warren Ward hit back-to-back three pointers, and Tyshawn Patterson connected from long distance to give London a 52-24 lead.
The Express would try to cut into the lead as the first half wore down. Tony Bennett made an acrobatic layup in the lane, and later made two free throws to bring Windsor to within 21 at the half.
In the second half, the roles were reversed. Windsor was the team who came out with a high level of intensity, while the Lightning were struggling from the floor. The door was open for the Express to get back into the game, and they came storming through.
Quarter three was back and forth, and the Lightning looked to be comfortably ahead as the quarter wound down. It wasn’t until the fourth quarter that the outcome came into question in a big way.
Windsor was able to cut the deficit down to 15 heading into the final quarter, and their comeback efforts were just getting started. Rudolphe Joly opened the quarter with a layup to cut the lead down to 81-68, before Ryan Anderson hit a three pointer for the Lightning to push their advantage back to 84-68.
Alex Johnson responded with a three for the Express, and Chris Commons added a layup a few possessions later to cut the deficit down to just 10 with plenty of time left on the clock.
The teams would trade baskets, and another layup from Commons brought the Express to within single digits for the first time since early in the second quarter.
Windsor opened the final quarter on a 22-8 run to bring them with 89-88. After a Lightning basket pushed the lead back to 3, Commons hit a three from the top of the arc, and the Express had climbed all the way back to tie the game at 91-all.
With just under 4 minutes to go, the Lightning were over the foul limit. Maurice Bolden hit three free throws, one of which stemmed from a second technical foul given to Wright. Wright fouled out of the game, and picked up his second technical of the night. Bolden’s free throws gave Windsor its first lead since early in quarter one, at 94-91.
Ward hit a three for the Lightning to tie the game at 94-all, which led to an Express timeout.
Out of the break, Stephen Maxwell and Robinson would trade baskets, followed by Garrett Williamson and Robinson traded baskets to keep things tied at 98-all.
After Robinson’s basket, Windsor would not score again, allowing London to pull away for good. Anderson hit a big three to give the Lightning a 101-98 lead, and proceeded to stare down his former team’s bench afterwards. Okorie and Williamson made free throws down the stretch to seal the deal for London.
After seeing their big lead disappear, the Lightning showed great determination and resiliency when it was gut-check time, and came away with a hard-fought victory over the Windsor Express, 104-98.
Five different players for the Express scored in double-figures. Brandon Robinson scored a game-high 24 points to go along with 8 rebounds, while Chris Commons scored 19 points of his own.
As for the Lightning, they also had five different players reach double-figures on the night. They had 9 different players score at least 7 points in the game. Akeem Wright scored a team-high 19 points to go along with 8 rebounds and 5 assists before fouling out in the fourth quarter.
Ryan Anderson and Warren Ward each had 17 points apiece. Forward Taylor Black made his first appearance in front of the hometown crowd, recording 2 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 block in 9:52 of court time.