For the better part of the 2015-16 season, the London Lightning have been at the top of the Central Division standings. While they no longer have the league’s top record, they are arguably the top contender for the NBL Canada championship.
As of late, the Lightning have seen their lead atop the division standings cut down to 2.5 games coming into Saturday’s game. The Windsor Express lost to the Niagara River Lions on Saturday, giving London an opportunity to stretch their cushion to 3.5 games with a win on their home court.
For the second time in four days, and third in the past month, the Lightning took on the Orangeville A’s. Back on Wednesday, the A’s got the better of the Lightning, coming away with a 103-91 victory.
Early on, it didn’t look good for the Lightning on their home floor. They found themselves trailing by as many as 19 points late in the third quarter, and they looked to be well on their way to another loss at the hands of Orangeville.
In the fourth quarter, the Lightning started to put things together on both ends of the floor, and mounted a huge comeback to take over the game. London outscored Orangeville by a 38-14 margin in the final frame, and held down their home court with a 110-99 victory.
The start of the game wasn’t pretty for both teams, but the Lightning had things a bit worse than their counterparts. London was held off the scoreboard for over two minutes to open the game, but the A’s could only muster four points of their own during that time. Warren Ward broke the drought for London with a three ball at the 9:30 mark.
As the quarter wound down, the teams would trade baskets and it was a slim 1-point advantage for London with under two minutes to play. Nick Okorie connected on a three pointer to extend London’s lead to 4, and then followed that up with a pretty drive to the basket for a layup that included a fake behind-the-back pass.
Tyshawn Patterson hit a pair of free throws with 1.5 seconds left on the clock to give the Lightning a 23-15 cushion after the opening 12 minutes.
In the second quarter, Orangeville looked to take things over, and guard Dominic Cheek put the team on his back. After going 0-of-3 from the field in the first quarter, Cheek found his shooting stroke and took over the game.
He opened the quarter with a layup to cut the deficit down to 6, and he was just getting warmed up. He would make another layup later in the quarter that would eliminate London’s lead, putting Orangeville ahead by 1, at 30-29.
Before the media break, Louis Munks would pick up a technical foul after some choice words for the official. Ward would hit the ensuing free throw, and the score was tied at 31-all.
In the closing minutes of the first half, Cheek connected on four three-pointers to help the A’s break the game open. His first trifecta led to a London timeout, with the score 39-34 in favour of Orangeville.
To throw salt on the wound, Munks redeemed himself and hit a corner three at the buzzer to give the A’s a 56-45 advantage as they went into the locker room.
After a back-and-forth third quarter that saw the Lightning fall behind as many as 19 points, the level of optimism inside the Budweiser Gardens appeared to be low. With their hometown team down at 13 heading into the final frame, fans weren’t sure what to expect.
One thing is for certain, the players never lost belief in themselves, and they came out with a level of intensity that was missing for the last seven quarters that the team had played.
Akeem Scott cut the deficit down to 10 for the Lightning with a layup in transition, and the fans were right back in the game. The Lightning were doing it on both ends of the floor, and were using the excitement in the building as motivation.
Marcus Capers came up with blocks on consecutive defensive possessions, and they each led to baskets for his team on the other end of the floor. Scott hit a three after Capers’ first block, and Ward hit a jumper after the second block. Eric Kibi capped off a stellar sequence for the Lightning with a layup of his own to get London back within 5, at 87-82.
Cheek, the hero of the second quarter for the A’s, hit a floater in the lane to give Orangeville a 7-point cushion, and putting a stop to the Lightning momentum for a brief moment. As the quarter progressed, it was clear the the Lightning wouldn’t be denied on this night.
Following Cheek’s floater, London would complete their comeback. Ward connected on a three, Stephen Maxwell hit a pair of free throws, and Patterson hit a layup to tie things up at 93-all. They would take the lead for good moments later after a pair of jumpers from Ward.
London would slowly build on their lead, and would put the game on ice with under a minute to play. Maxwell took the ball at the three point line, drove to the basket and made a layup in contact. He made the free throw to complete the three point play, the crowd went crazy, and the Lightning had a nine point advantage with 57.1 seconds left.
Their backs were against the wall heading into the final 12 minutes of the game, but the Lightning showed a ton of resiliency and fight as they climbed all the way back to steal the game from the A’s. London got some revenge by taking down Orangeville by 11, 110-99.
Dominic Cheek did his best to send Orangeville to the win, but in the end, it wasn’t enough. Cheek finished the night with a game-high 34 points to go along with 7 rebounds. He was 14-of-26 from the floor, and 6-of-14 from three point range. Tyrone Watson finished one rebound shy of a double-double, recording 15 points and 9 rebounds in the loss.
Former Buffalo Bulls star Justin Moss was held in check for most of the night. He finished with 7 points and 2 rebounds before fouling out.
For the Lightning, a balanced scoring attack led the team to the victory, as they finished with five players in double figures. London native Warren Ward scored a team-high 26 points to go along with 5 assists and 4 rebounds. Stephen Maxwell put together another double-double performance, scoring 23 points and pulling down 11 rebounds.
Akeem Scott finished with 18 points and 3 assists, while Nick Okorie and Tyshawn Patteron added 11 points apiece.
With the win, the London Lightning (20-10) push their advantage atop the Central Division to 3.4 games over the Express. London will finish their three-game home stand on Wednesday against the Niagara River Lions before heading out east for four games in seven nights against the Atlantic Division.
The loss puts an end to the momentum that the Orangeville A’s (10-23) gained in their last win over the Lightning. The A’s go on the road on Thursday for their next game when they face the Niagara River Lions inside the Meridian Centre.